To start things off there was a presentation on what Sun is doing with virtualization. I am an avid reader of virtualization technologies, but haven't really had a lot of opportunities to play around with it other than VMWare player on my laptop. I really liked their vision and implementation ideas for effectively utilizing it. I'm not sure if this was obtained with permission, but I found the slides presented on at this site: http://thenut.eti.pg.gda.pl/~zdzichu/a/485252.pdf
Ok...on to the BlackBox. It was pretty cool to finally see the container and I will say that it is well engineered (for a first shot at it). It crams a lot of compute power in a small footprint and the overall design makes sense. Here are some of my notes from what I was able to jot down:
- 20' shipping container: 20'x8'x8.5' (LxWxH)
- 20,000 lbs. fully configured
- Up to a 60 ton chiller for full 200kW load
- 7 racks of dual 60a 3phase power: 8th is a distribution cabinet
- Release date: expected in July 2007
- Without servers installed it is 'estimated' to cost $300k-$400k
- Site requirements for deployment: 208 3phase AC, Chilled water, Bandwidth and a flat, level pad >= 30' x 15'
- It was mentioned that someone like Caterpillar would potentially be interested in packaging a BlackBox with a generator and other items to complete the container.
- Data Center expansion
- Data Center Consolidation
- Data Center Migration
- Disaster Recover
- Remote Infrastructure
- Temporary Data Center
- Hybrid Data Center
That seems to be one of the big selling points....quick turn around (versus building an actual facility). This and the ability to pre-configure and ship it where you want seem to be the real purpose in the product. Now, I still question having the power and pipe readily available in some of these places they suggest, but..... Not to mention if you are going to have a chiller, transformers, 208 3phase power and UPS -- just so you can drop a black box in, haven't you really already built a Data Center?
Finally, the one that simply blows me away: security. I don't think you will find too many scenarios where people will say that the data residing on servers inside the data center is not that critical or important. This is one of the top reasons that servers are kept in facilities that have multiple levels of security and measures to prevent tampering with any part of the data, server or data center infrastructure. The picture where a BlackBox is in a parking garage still makes me chuckle. Why would anyone park one there and then just leave the bandwidth and power dangling off the side for anyone to come sever.
Competition: recently, of course, there is Rackable. Check out this InternetNews article that mentioned investor site report rumors that Sun was in talks to BUY Rackable! And all of this is old hat to the APC Data Center on wheels that has been around a long while. Just for fun, take a look at the Google trend chart between Blackbox and Rackable's Concerto.
So to summarize.....I had a good time and was glad I got to see it. I don't doubt they will sell many of these in the future and think that they have engineered something pretty cool. I think there is a purpose for these that I just can not see yet (as evidenced by Rackable saying that they sold one to a leading Internet company (Yahoo perhaps?)). My only question is that by the time you provision everything needed to support a BlackBox, have you really saved anything over building an expandable data center to do the same thing?
I also wanted to provide some links to others that have blogged on the BlackBox tour and provided their reviews:
And finally, my pictures: