Sun Microsystems (JAVA) says its portable data center, Project Blackbox, has been deployed in remote areas of Russia by that country's largest mobile phone company, extending service to places where it would be difficult to build data centers.
Project Blackbox is a data center housed in a 20-foot long shipping container that can support hundreds of servers. Sun announced the project in Oct. 2006, and the first Blackbox was shipped to a Stanford University laboratory in July 2007. In Sun's quarterly earnings call yesterday, CEO Jonathan Schwartz talked about an additional Blackbox customer.
"MTS or Mobile Telesystems, the largest mobile phone operator in Russia, selected and deployed Sun's Project Blackbox across their service territories, enabling services in locations without Class A data centre facilities, and giving them a remote operations in management capability others were unable to meet," Schwartz said.
MTS (MBT), which is using the Blackbox for mobile billing support, appears to be the first company to deploy multiple units of the "data center in a box," although several planned data center projects incorporate the Blackbox. These include a data bunker in Japan in which 30 Blackboxes will be lowered into a former coal mine located 100 meters underground, and a planned fleet of data centers on cargo ships being planned by a Bay area startup. A Canadian company, eNation, has also announced plans to customize Blackboxes to provide disaster recovery for customers in the online gaming industry.
Sun isn't alone in the containerized data center business, as Rackable (RACK) has begun deploying its Concentro and ICE Cube, while Microsoft (MSFT) says it is developing container-based data centers, and Google (GOOG) has been granted a patent for one.
Schwartz cited MTS' deployment of the Blackbox as the sign of things to come. "Traditional CIOs are looking to alternatives and we believe Project Blackbox represents the most compelling such alternative supplied by a mainstream vendor," he said.