I’ve been inside one of these and, well, you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time there. Any lover of engineering for its own sake would I think find the box breathtaking; the cooling and power-supply designs are elegant and beautiful, and then the whole thing being wrapped up in an anonymous steel rectangle is into postmodern territory. Suffice it to say that some of the applications for this are things you Just Can’t Talk About, and you can bet those aren’t going to have the snappy green-on-black paint job. Others are going to be graffiti tagging opportunities. Me, I have no idea how big the market is. But I’m glad we built it, because it is just totally drop-dead fucking cool. [Update: Nothing’s real unless it’s on YouTube.] [Update: Nico Williams does the numbers.]

Sitting in a parking lot at the Menlo Park campus.

Sun blackbox mobile data center

Photo by Aaron Cohen.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Forget It (Oct 17 2006, at 10:27)

A couple of quick questions:

Surely black is the wrong color: shouldn't a fridge reflect heat not absorb it?

What it the power supply - and how interruptable will it be in a parking lot?


From: Wes Felter (Oct 17 2006, at 11:39)

Come on, the NSA already uses black helicopters, why not black shipping containers?

BTW, the green text on the comment page is overlapping the comment textarea, making it hard to read.


From: roberthahn (Oct 17 2006, at 11:57)

ooo! and it's recyclable too! That IS cool!


From: Simon Brocklehurst (Oct 17 2006, at 13:02)

It looks really great - and speaking of applications you Just Can't Talk about, I'm thinking CTU could make good use of one of these. So, I hope you guys got this in front of the 24 producers, so they can sneak it into Season 6!


From: Aaron (Oct 17 2006, at 13:47)

Thanks for the attribute of the blackbox photo...though I didn't actually take those photos. Wish I did though:)


From: John (Oct 17 2006, at 13:53)

I can't seem to find it in the "try&buy" list, what a pity... :-)


From: Joel Dinda (Oct 18 2006, at 09:04)

Reminds me of Vietnam, I'm afraid. The Pleiku Army Communications Center lived mostly in a very large shed, but the equipment I was trained to use--a huge data terminal we called DSTE--was stuffed into a pair semi trailers behind the building.

Air conditioned? Yup. Crammed full of electronics? Yup. Secure? Mostly. Outside the blast wall, and therefore vulnerable? Most certainly....


From: Gregor J. Rothfuss (Oct 19 2006, at 09:14)

etoy have played with this concept for years: http://www.etoy.com/fundamentals/etoy-tanks/

"etoy.TANKS are modular shells that travel the physical world in the same way data packages travel the internet: every etoy.TANK is a TCP/IP-PACKAGE traveling trough space and time according an elaborate global transmission protocol to produce and mediate communication technology based art."


From: Nitin Borwankar (Oct 19 2006, at 19:03)

I think the real proliferation of these requires a couple more years and is related to attacking CO2 emissions on a nationwide scale.

The model goes as follows - cities are co-opted into the nationwide need to reduce driving - especially in knowledge worker metro areas. Soon same happens globally.

Drop off one of these in the parking lot, near a large warehouse, provide heating/cooling and workspaces in the warehouse(s) and you have a model for suburban hoteling of knowledge workers.

Companies in the Bay Area would be motivated to support and underwrite costs of these locations by getting tax breaks (or after say 2010 penalties for not doing it), based on the number of aggregate miles their employees commmute or ~= net CO2 emitted by employees going to work.

The offsite data center would also need massive Internet connections, something not mentioned in the marketing talk, possibly because the first applications of these are "things you can't talk about" where these are not connected to the Internet.

Anyway, the summary is :- Need for urgent reduction in CO2 emission --> suburban knowledge worker hoteling via regional initiatives will drive major demand for these - world wide.

Especially in India and China where

a) knowledge work is expanding and

b) CO2 emissions could massively accelerate climate change

Sun should work with Gore and Bono and Soros to create pilot projects in India and China to reduce traffic due to commuting.


From: Andy (Oct 20 2006, at 04:48)

Well done, by using the f-word in your article you got Sun a boatload of free publicity on sites like The Inquirer! Now stick THAT in your corporate blogging policy!


From: Glen (Oct 20 2006, at 10:54)

This product is pretty damn cool. Kudos to Sun for following this idea and for making many interesting products recently. I believe this company is on its way back to being a key player in the server market. (Full disclosure: I own SUNW)

I hate the fact that the "news" about the word "fuck" was the reason that I ended up here (I'm an inq reader). Seeing a Sun exec use such candid language without being dismissed makes me want to go work there.



From: Jon (Oct 20 2006, at 15:15)

Call me old-fashioned, but as a father of young kids (as you are), it makes me cringe to see the f-word coming from a professional such as yourself. Obviously, it's far, far from the worst you'll see on the Web, but is it truly necessary to get the point across....even if it does get you free publicity?


From: Rip Ragged (Oct 23 2006, at 21:23)

Adolescence has not yet left me. I came to see the word "fuck" someplace it isn't supposed to be.

Whee. That's what all the hullaballoo is about?

I've seen more offensive stuff in animated motion pictures.

Nice article, by the way. Too bad about all the negative attention it's getting.

Happy Monday


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

October 17, 2006
· Technology (87 fragments)
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