Sun's Data Center Road Trip

It's the data center of the future - but who's driving?

February 1, 2008

2 Min Read
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The idea of ripping crucial storage, server, and networking gear out of a secure building and stuffing it into a lorry may seem strange to many CIOs, but Sun claims that this is the data center of the future.

First demo'd last year as "Project Black Box," Sun has been touting its mobile data center as the solution to users' space constraints and disaster recovery problems.

Yesterday, the vendor finally GA'd the product as the infinitely less sexy Datacenter S20, pushing the 20-foot shipping container as the next big thing in data center design.

"Many people are running out of datacenter space, so they are locating [their storage] outside of the datacenter," says Darlene Yaplee, vice president of integrated platforms at Sun, explaining that the S20's eight racks can be packed with up to 3 Pbytes of disk capacity or up to 18 Teraflops of compute power.

Users with a strong desire to take their data center on a road trip can now get their hands on this "server-room on wheels," and the first early adopters were announced this week.Of the four users named by Sun, only one, Stanford University's Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), is in the U.S.

"As we needed to add new capacity each year to handle the new data requirements that we have, we ran out of space, available power, and cooling capacity in the data center here," says Chuck Boeheim, assistant director of computing at SLAC. "We could bring more electrical power in, but it would take up to two years to do so, and the cooling is even worse."

Cue Sun and their box -- well, truck -- of tricks, buying Boeheim and his team valuable time in their nuclear research. "This is a way to continue expanding our batch clusters while deciding what the future alternatives will be for expansion of the data center," he says.

The exec admits that security considerations crossed his mind prior to deploying the mobile data center, but he told Byte and Switch that his hardware is safe inside the trailer. "It's bolted down for earthquake stabilization and there are a lot of cables coming out of it," he explains. "It would be no easy task to forklift it out of here."

Actually getting hold of an S20 may not be so easy for many firms -- the list price for the data center minus storage and server gear starts at $559,000. Still, desperate times, so they say, call for desperate measures.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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