Sun Modular Datacenter

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A Sun Modular Datacenter on display at the Sun Microsystems Executive Briefing Center in Menlo Park, California

Sun Modular Datacenter (Sun MD, known in the prototype phase as Project Blackbox) is a portable data center built into a standard 20-foot intermodal container (shipping container) manufactured and marketed by Sun Microsystems (acquired in 2010 by Oracle Corporation). An external chiller and power were required for the operation of a Sun MD. A data center of up to 280 servers could be rapidly deployed by shipping the container in a regular way to locations that might not be suitable for a building or another structure, and connecting it to the required infrastructure.[1] Sun stated that the system could be made operational for 1% of the cost of building a traditional data center.[2]


The prototype was first announced as "Project Blackbox" in October 2006;[3] the official product was announced in January 2008.[4]

A Project Blackbox with 1088 Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors ranked #412 on the June 2007 TOP500 list.[5]

The Sun Modular Datacenter, aka: Project Blackbox, was a concept design between MIT alums, Greg Papadopoulos and Dave Douglas from Sun Labs and Danny Hillis from Applied Minds to determine what is the largest possible “thumb drive” that can still be easily transported worldwide by truck, rail, and air.  Their decision was a 20 foot standard shipping container would be ideal as transportation methods exist in near every country around the world. Internally the 20 foot container was highly modified to hold 8ea 40RU compute racks of servers and/or storage. Initial target audience was for secure portable DC and for disaster relief to allow internet access for email and insurance forms.

Prototype build occurred remotely at Applied Minds facility, managed by Adam Yates from Applied Minds and Russ Rinfret from Sun.

The team behind Project Blackbox:


  • Darlene Yaplee, Sr Director
  • Michael Bohlig
  • Cheryl Martin
  • Bob Schiolmueller, Technical Marketing
  • Joe Carvalho, Technical Marketing


  • Jud Cooley, Sr Director for Project
  • Chuck Perry, Software and Environmental Systems Design
  • Russ Rinfret, Mechanical Engineering Manager
  • Lee Follmer
  • Tim Jolly
  • Alex Barandian
  • Chris Wooley
  • Chris Spect
  • Carl Meske

Supply and Vendor Mgmt

  • Jeff Galloway


The Internet Archive data facility

On 14 July 2007, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) deployed a Sun MD containing 252 Sun Fire X2200 compute nodes as a compute farm.[6][7] Other customers include Radboud University.[8]

In March 2009, the Internet Archive migrated its digital archive into a Sun MD, hosted at Sun's Santa Clara headquarters campus,[9] a realization of a paper written by Archive employees in late 2003 proposing "an outdoor petabyte JBOD NAS box" of sufficient capacity to store the then-current Archive in a 40' shipping container.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sun Modular Datacenter S20 - Technical Specifications". 2008-05-27. Archived from the original on February 26, 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ M. Mitchell Waldrop - "Data Center In a Box", Scientific American, August 2007
  3. ^ "Sun Unveils The Future of Virtualized Datacenters – Project Blackbox" (Press release). Sun Microsystems, Inc. 2006-10-17. Archived from the original on March 1, 2007. Retrieved 2013-06-08.{{cite press release}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  4. ^ "Sun Modular Datacenter Fuels Momentum With New Customer Wins In Manufacturing, Healthcare, HPC And Telco". Sun Microsystems. 2008-01-29. Archived from the original on February 1, 2008. Retrieved 2013-06-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ "Sun Project Blackbox". TOP500 Supercomputing Sites. June 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
  6. ^ "SLAC Prepares for First Blackbox to Expand Computing Power". SLAC Today. 2007-06-20.
  7. ^ "SLAC's Newest Computing Center Arrives... by Truck". SLAC Today. 2007-07-25.
  8. ^ Rich Miller (2008-01-29). "Sun Rebrands Blackbox as 'Sun MD'". Data Center Knowledge. IDG TechNetwork. Archived from the original on 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
  9. ^ "Internet Archive and Sun Microsystems Create Living History of the Internet". Sun Microsystems. 2009-03-25. Archived from the original on March 26, 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ Bruce Baumgart; Matt Laue (2003-11-08). "Petabyte Box for Internet Archive" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-14. Retrieved 2013-06-08.

External links[edit]