Stanford Center Is First Blackbox Recipient

The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) will be the first customer to get a Project Blackbox portable data center from Sun Microsystems. The 20-foot long containerized data center will arrive on the university’s Menlo Park, Calif. campus next week and be placed on a concrete pad behind Building 50 at SLAC.

The first Backbox will contain 252 computing systems and boost SLAC’s scientific computing capacity by a third. Perhaps more significantly, the Blackbox will solve a facilities challenge, as Building 50, the computing building, is close to maxing out its cooling system and power. SLAC’s Blackbox will actually be painted white for energy efficiency.

“We needed to expand quickly this fiscal year, but solving the cooling and power challenges for the building takes longer,” Randy Melen, leader of the center’s High Performance Storage and Computing team, noted in the announcement. “We worked with Sun to answer the question, ‘how do you extend your data center without too much pain?'”

SLAC is serving as a beta tester for Project Blackbox, which was unveiled last October and prompted interesting discussion about the potential of portable and/or modular computing to address the power and cooling challenges in data centers.

The SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The center was created in 1962 to design and build electron accelerators for use in high-energy physics and radiation research.

The ties between Sun and Stanford go way back. Sun’s name is derived from “Stanford University Network,” and founders Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla and Scott McNealy were all Stanford grad students when they founded the company in 1982.

The 24,000-pound Blackbox will be shipped from Sun’s Hillsboro, Oregon manufacturing facilty next week. The Blackbox will plug into the electrical substation behind Building 50 and will get a 10-gigabit networking fiber hookup. A chiller system will be added in August and sit on a second concrete pad and circulate chilled water to the Blackbox’s internal cooling system.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.


  1. Tom

    The project is a great idea and i think it would be benifical to many colleges/universities in the world. If only the university that i am at could by one or two, what the hell make it three.

  2. Imagine a beowulf cluster of these!

  3. This seems identical to the Petabox touted by the Internet Archive.