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Sun Microsystems unveils data center

Sun Microsystems unveils data center
Sun Microsystems unveils data center 

[Carjacking is SO passe, which makes you wonder which company will 
suffer the first data-center jacking...  :)   - WK]

October 16, 2006 

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Server and software maker Sun Microsystems Inc. has 
a novel twist on the data center: a portable version of the hulking 
outposts that house nothing but computers and equipment needed to store 
and process raw data.

The concept project dubbed Project Blackbox is a "data center in a box" 
with all the necessary servers, storage and networking equipment packed 
into a cushioned and cooled 20-foot-long cargo shipping container. Sun 
was unveiling the system Tuesday.

Only two prototypes have been produced so far, but the company hopes to 
begin full-scale production by next summer. The price hasn't been 

The idea eliminates several major hurdles facing data center customers: 
finding an appropriate site, arranging the servers and cooling 
mechanisms in the most efficient manner, and waiting for construction to 
be complete.

The company is touting energy efficiency as a crucial benefit of the 
confined space, as its patented cooling features can more accurately 
target hot spots than in giant warehouses. The box can hold hundreds of 
servers and save thousands of dollars per year in energy costs, the 
company said.

"This is a totally different solution to what to date has been an 
intractable problem," Sun Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz said in an 
interview. "There's a little bit of packaging bravado that goes into 
this, but it proves it's not just about commodity computing."

Sun envisions key customers will include rapidly expanding Internet 
companies that can't wait several years to build traditional 
brick-and-mortar data centers, and military and humanitarian concerns 
that need immediate computing capability in remote regions. Small to 
mid-size companies that only need to expand incrementally could also be 
lucrative targets.

The development team sought to narrow the "mismatch" between the time it 
takes to build a custom technical room and the time it takes to buy the 
computer components, said David Douglas, Sun's vice president of 
advanced technology and the lead architect of the Blackbox project.

"Take a company like YouTube," Douglas said of the 2-year-old, rapidly 
growing video-sharing site, which Google Inc. agreed to buy last week 
for $1.65 billion. "It would take longer to build a new data center than 
the company's even existed. This lets you grow gracefully instead of 
making very, very large bets on how much data storage and computing 
you'll need down the road."

Analysts briefed on the project said it has enormous marketing potential 
and marks another creative research-and-development milestone critical 
to the company's slow but steady turnaround after its gutting in the 
dot-com collapse.

The company's annual revenue has declined in four of the past five 
years, and it has amassed net losses of more than $5 billion since 2002.

However, revenues have been climbing, and analysts are expecting 
double-digit year-over-year revenue growth when Sun reports 
first-quarter results on Oct. 26. The company has forecast it will turn 
a profit within the fiscal year.

"The rumors of Sun's demise are greatly exaggerated," said Nathan 
Brookwood, an analyst with research firm Insight 64. "This is the sort 
of thing that might make somebody who thought, 'Sun? I thought they were 
dead?', say, 'We need to talk to those guys again.'"

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