[Beowulf] Sun Project "blackbox"

John Leidel john.leidel at gmail.com
Wed Oct 18 11:38:24 PDT 2006

I was actually hoping to get one dropped in my backyard.  Just think of
the positive return over the crabgrass! :-)

On Wed, 2006-10-18 at 11:15 -0700, David Mathog wrote:
> Sun's project "blackbox" is pretty interesting.  Basically it's a 
> prepackaged cluster in a shipping container.  Water cooled.  There's
> currently a link to it from www.sun.com.  Overall I like the concept -
> it could change data center design from constructing one off
> buildings to essentially setting up something like a trailer
> park, albeit one with a huge amount of chilled water and electrical
> power. 
> On the down side, working inside that shipping container doesn't look
> like a whole lot of fun.  There's very little clearance in the hall
> part, so pulling a node would have to be done from the side. 
> Awkward.    Maybe they'll put in an overhead lift system on a rail down
> the center.  So pull the node out part way, hook it to the
> overhead trolley, and then lift it out with a pulley and
> carry it to the door and out.  Certainly there isn't room
> in there for opening a node for any real service work. 
> Heaven help you if you drop something behind one of those
> racks!
> I'm not sure the prototype configuration would even be legal
> in some locales, as there is only one door into it, at least
> it appears that way from the photos. It would be bad news to be
> at the distal end when the rack at the proximal end shorts out
> and goes up in flames.  There are
> building code standards that address those sorts of issues, and
> I suspect the far end of the box may be too far from the door.
> Plus, again, if a whole rack does need to be pulled out it's
> going to be hard to do that for one person from the side, but
> if two people do it one gets walled into the container.  Sun
> could address this by cutting a second door at the far end.  It
> could be bolted shut (and flush on the outside) during shipping.
> Moving larger items around within the box seems like a nonstarter.  The
> racks and other largish equipment would have to be pulled out through
> the double doors, rearranged, and then placed back into the box.  It
> would probably be possible to swap nodes around, but even that wouldn't
> be fun given the tight central hall.  Probably best to think of this
> as a defined computing unit, with any major change requiring replacement
> of the entire thing.
> Overall though, I think it's a very good concept, even if there are
> details left to be worked out.
> Regards,
> David Mathog
> mathog at caltech.edu
> Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech
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