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Sun unveils IT’s first ‘prefab’ data centre

Sun Microsystems has unveiled a new simplified approach to IT infrastructure that packages a complete data centre into a portable box.

The vendor estimates the solution will cost one-hundredth of the price to set up, one-fifth of the price per square foot and be 20% more power efficient than a traditional data centre.

Project Blackbox, as it is known, squeezes compute, storage and network infrastructure, along with high-efficiency power and cooling into a modular unit based on a standard shipping container.

The solution has been tagged the first “prefab” data centre and will be targeted at customers running out of space in their current data centres, needing backup computing gear for disaster recovery or those setting up operations in remote locations.

The project is still in the late prototype phase, but Sun expects early commercial availability around mid-2007 and is convinced it will be a hit with customers.

“Just about every CIO and start-up I meet says they’re crippled by data centre energy and space constraints — today’s solutions are clearly failing to meet the needs of Web 2.0,” said Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and president of Sun Microsystems.

“Rather than trying to improve upon today’s data centre, designed for people babysitting computers, Project Blackbox starts from the world’s most broadly adopted industry standard, the shipping container, and asks — how can we most efficiently create modular, lights-out data centres from this base? The answer? With one-hundredth of the initial cost, one-fifth the cost per square foot, and with 20% more power efficiency, we can deliver an immense multiple of capacity and capability.”

The Blackbox is available in either a 20-foot or 40-foot long shipping container and, run on Sun’s Solaris 10 operating system (OS), can be configured to hold up to 250 Sun Fire servers, up to 2Pbtyes of storage or 7Tbytes of memory.

It also uses water instead of air to cool the equipment because of what Sun describes as the inefficiency of air, and the fact that there would not be enough room in the compact data centre for air to circulate in order to cool the hardware effectively.

Jeff Olds, an engagement architect for Sun Middle East’s oil and gas sector practice, said the firm would bring Blackbox to the region: “Somebody could roll this solution out very quickly, giving you rapid deployment in very remote areas, where somebody needs to quickly get their hands on some serious computing power or storage.”

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