My coworker and I toured Sun’s experimental Blackbox when it stopped by UW earlier this week, just for giggles (we run a fairly small shop, so we’ll never need one of these things). Ars Technica did a nice job on their writeup of the tour, but here are my own observations about this product.
- Project Blackbox only includes the shipping container full of racks and related infrastructure. No cooling, nor electrical generator, is included. This makes the product significantly less exciting (to me). Imagine if this system was completely self contained — just plop the container down in the jungle and it can run independently for a week on diesel or something — now that’d be awesome. Sun’s reps did, however, say that they have partnered with vendors for chillers and generators, so they can at least help you get everything needed to run one of these things.
- The way they cool these racks of equipment is pretty unique and clever. The eight racks are arranged in two lines along the sides of the container, back-to-front, kind of like lines of marching ants. There are no cold aisles or hot aisles; the (cold) front of one rack abuts on the (hot) rear of the next rack, with a condenser/fan assembly in between to chill the air and keep it moving. When the system is sealed by closing the doors at each end of the container, airflow takes a circular route around the perimeter, getting cooled at eight points along the way to keep each rack at optimum temperature.
- The guy giving tours was Conan O’Brien’s miniature doppelganger. But he was not hilarious.