Canadian data center operator eNation is staking out the leading edge of the "Blackbox economy" of services built around Sun Microsystems' portable data center. eNation, which specializes in hosting services for online casinos and betting sites, has begun marketing a customized version of the Blackbox which it will buy from Sun and then configure and install for its customers.
"There's a lot of interest, but what customers are learning is that you can't just plunk it down on the ground and start using it," said Cheryl Giblon, director of global sales and marketing for eNation. "That's where we come in. We customize it and also do the installation, including the setup of the power and cooling."
eNation launched the offering last week, and hasn't sold any yet. But Giblon reports strong interest from gaming customers, some of which are located in casino-friendly nations in the Caribbean. "A lot of them have their primary data centers in hurricane zones, and are interested in a portable data center as a backup solution. It would be in another location, but close enough that they can get to it."
Sun's Project Blackbox is a portable data center that packs hundreds of servers into a 20-foot long shipping container, with an integrated cooling system to support high-density computing. The product was announced last October, but Sun is making the first customer shipment this week. The "data center in a box" requires chilled water to support the cooling system, in addition to Internet connectivity and appropriate power infrastructure.
At the October launch event, Sun said each Blackbox would probably cost about $500,000. Pricing for eNation's version of the Blackbox starts at $600,000. Rob Zdancewicz,the co-CEO of eNation, said the product is "ideal as a dark site for businesses located in hurricane/tornado zones for optimal time to recovery in case of emergency, as a site for overflow computing needs, or to meet a company's immediate needs for private, secure, on-net computing."
eNation operates a 25,000 square foot high-density data center outside Edmonton, Alberta on the territory of the Alexander First Nation Reservation. The company provides a suite of data center and managed services for online gaming companies, and also provides industry-specific solutions for the oil and gas industry.
Giblon said some of the companies that have expressed interest in eNation's custom Blackboxes are thinking "outside the box" about potential configurations. "We've actually had some people talk about stacking them nine high," she said. "We're working with them to figure out the best method to provide access for staff. I've had another company talk about burying one."