Marketing on 42nd Street

Sun's PR machine gets ever more mysterious

March 6, 2007

2 Min Read
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6:00 PM --A strange sight greeted commuters emerging from New York's Grand Central station today. Parked on 42nd Street was an ominous-looking black lorry bearing the logo of Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW).

This was all part of Sun's "Project Black Box," which sounds like some sort of shadowy U.S. government research effort. The reality is a little more prosaic. Sitting on the back of the lorry was a 20-foot shipping container packed to the rafters with servers, switches, and cabling.

Unveiled last year, "Project Black Box" is essentially a portable data center which can be plonked down at sites where users suddenly find themselves in need of storage or compute power. One Sun exec shivering in the today's chilly New York weather told Byte and Switch that this could be used for emergency disaster recovery or even collocation in areas with low-cost power sources.

The eight racks inside the container hold up to 250 servers or 1.5 Petabytes of disk storage, although Sun is still keeping some of its Project Black Box details under wraps. The two-ton unit is built to order, although the vendor is coy about naming customers. One exec confirmed that Sun has built four boxes and is now working on others, adding only that the technology is targeted at telcos, Internet companies, and financial services firms.

That said, the exec also confirmed that the U.S. Army has spoken to Sun about "Project Black Box", conjuring up images of data centers being parachuted into hotspots like Afghanistan and Iraq. (See USAF Issues Storage Challenge and US Navy.)At this stage, Sun is also keeping pricing details close to its chest, although the vendor plans to make Project Black Box available in the summer. Maybe then it will be apparent whether there really is a market for a data center in a box.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

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