Blackbox on a Shake Table

We’re continuing to see a lot of interest in Project Blackbox – a complete datacenter we’re introducing to allow customers to leave behind traditional raised floor facilities for vastly less expensive, more power efficient and faster to deploy alternatives.


With network equipment increasingly managed via technology, not people, and service operators assuming individual components and machines will fail but a web service never can (‘reliable services built from unreliable parts’), our view is Project Blackbox, and fail-in-place software infrastructure like the free ZFS file system, represent real options for CIO’s and CTO’s out of space, power, money or patience.

We put a blackbox on one of the world’s largest shake tables at University of California, San Diego, to get a sense for how it’d handle a severe earthquake. Rather than “shake and bake” a computer, we figured we’d test out the equivalent for a complete datacenter (and throw some Sun SPOT sensors into the mix to harvest data):


For those interested in our blades launch event last week, at which John Fowler and Andy Bechtolsheim unveiled our first Intel product, a blade designed for our AMD/Intel/SPARC Sun Blade 6000, please see here. There’s more data, here, as well (and yes, they’ll run Windows, Linux and Solaris – all under the same management software, and they’ll even fit in a Blackbox…).


And if you carefully watch Chapter 3 of the launch video, you’ll see John and Andy provide a sneak peek for a project internally code-named “C48” – it’s behind the big black drape…

24 Comments

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24 responses to “Blackbox on a Shake Table

  1. Kevin

    Wanted to share some good news with you. I got an API for your SunGrid and it looks like just what I needed. Also, I posted a comment on a Sun blog that some documentation links for Sun Studio 12 were not working – and now they work fine. So I’ve now got a working copy of Sun Studio 12 running on a Linux laptop. Your injection of transparency, engagement and responsiveness into Sun is really working. By the way, the chap on the YouTube clip – is that Greg P’s son?

  2. Sal

    The video of the Blackbox on the shake table is amazing. It made me wonder about some of the human factors for the Blackbox. There is no guarantee that anyone would be safe in a regular data center environment. I imagine that being a Blackbox could be even more frightening if there was a quake or other event.
    Also, what are the chances that a window or porthole will be offered as an option? Geeks desperately need sunlight!

  3. That was some crazy video!
    Hmm… I wonder where else the Blackbox can be tested?
    Not that anyone would put a DC there, but bottom of the ocean (if they can get power there)? middle of a desert? in the forest?

  4. Bill-W

    Hi Jonathan,
    It sure would be real nice if Google ordered a bunch of Blackboxes from Sun!!

  5. I wondered the same thing about Dr. Phil in the video — any relation to Greg P?
    Cool video!

  6. vruz

    Awesome ZFS stuff.
    No doubt we could find uses for it, the only problem I have with ZFS at this point is that it’s a bit difficult for a (just-started) startup to use it on the go, and allocating hardware resources to learning and testing it. (no migration path ? benchmarks ? no small distro one can throw at a few whiteboxes and start learning how to make use of it ?)
    The guys porting it to MacOSX and Linux are really making some progress on it, and maybe your new linux-like OpenSolaris distro will make this educative path smoother ?
    Simon Phipps linked to an article about “ZFS: Ten reasons to reformat your hard drives” but we will probably need something better than a leap of faith here.
    Whilst we’re at it, Linus sorta-kinda says he would go GPL3 if Sun ***really*** delivers on open sourcing Solaris under the GPL3 too.
    http://lkml.org/lkml/2007/6/10/148
    What about GPL3 Java ?
    I can see the ***urge*** for cross-pollination, especially since Microsoft is setting .NET at the core of their operating systems.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularity_(operating_system)

  7. Lee Hepler

    I was just wondering about the lease program. Would there be any demand for having leased Black Boxes located at a Sun facility rather than a users site? Maybe you could have warehouses located near the MAE internet hubs ( http://www.mae.net/ ) which could enable multiple short 10Gb fiber runs to the hubs and provide plenty of bandwidth at the lowest cost. Customers could use their leased Black Boxes through a VPN connection ( T2 based systems at both ends ) that would put it virtually on their local network. They wouldn’t have to plan for a temporary physical location at their local site thus saving them even more time and money. This would enable 1 day setup by having a Sun technician install the T2 based system at the customers’ site and establishing the VPN connection to the dedicated Black Box. Instant emergency operations and temporary surge capacity for Christmas, Income tax season, movie animation and CGI rendering, etc…

  8. jill

    I have a complaint.Sun’s technology support and sell support in China is a great disappointment.
    The seller’s name is Scott Chen and David Liu.
    I have a project need Sun’s support, but Sun’s support is very terrible.
    Later I will write a letter of complaint to you.
    <font size=3 color=red>Before this things, I love Java and Sun; after this, I don’t like Sun!!!</font>

  9. That was some half-baked telecasting! Hmm… I marvel where else the Blackbox can be proved? Not that anyone would put a DC thither, but freighter of the ocean (if they can get aided thither)? midriff of a defect? in the afforest?

  10. Kevin Heatwole

    Did Steve Jobs remove ZFS from Leopard because you jumped the gun and told everyone it would be the default filesystem in Leopard? Jobs has been known to do that when a partner leaks info before he wants it known publicly.
    I hope this isn’t the case. And, I hope that you reconsider your licensing terms so I can use ZFS on my Linux webservers. It would be a tremendous contribution to make ZFS the preferred filesystem on Linux servers.

  11. Raj K

    John – I ve been a big believer (even bought stock) in the New Sun for a while, but we really need to have the firm cut back on expenses. SG&A is taking out any profits that sun manages to eke out, and to truly move to the next step in its revival, Sun needs to not just innovate, but be a lean ( and mean! ) firm.

  12. nobody

    Linus isn’t convinced Sun wants to help people. Can you elaborate on this Jonathan? Can you talk with Linus, perhaps in an open interview type of setting, similar to Jobs and Gates recently? We would love to hear the truth, and the specific truth that Sun does want to help people from the horses mouths.. Make Linus eat his words. 😉
    Yes we’re cynical for good reason, but there’s plenty of good reason to put all of this behind us now, if we’re serious about our future together. IP is valuable, that’s certainly acknowledged by both parties, but us acting like adults, supporting our community and sharing this intellectual property is far more valuable to the kids. Let’s show the kids just who’s leading this industry. And show them how to behave ethically and competitively by example.

  13. Paul

    Why don’t you give the shareholders the openness you promised? How much does SUN make from Java licensing? How much does SUN make from Solaris licensing (or service contracts)? And don’t give us that double speak BS where you say Javas is 14 billion dollars of revenue. Maybe you think about the shareholders and less about should stock options.

  14. Peter

    Your focus is definitely on Customers and solving problems with technology, not only Sun’s technology but a conglomeration of your competitors technology also. No vender lock in here. Good to see. Hard to ignore.

  15. Nagakiran

    Good info on amount of testing the Blackbox goes through.
    Just a suggestion that Indian roads will offer a far tougher test
    conditions if one wants to try🙂

  16. Blackbox looks like it is fit for Iraq.

  17. Anonymous

    Just visited the project blackbox page and found a spelling error – “hwo”.
    Looks unprofessional. Please correct!!
    http://www.sun.com/emrkt/blackbox/index.jsp
    “””Sun uses one of the world’s largest shake tables at University of California, San Diego, to see hwo Project Blackbox would survive a magnitude 6.7 earthquake. Watch as inside cameras catch the shaking.”””

  18. Michael Kearney

    I noticed the use of soldered copper pipe in the Black Box. Wouldn’t it be more reliable to use a PEX flexible type pipe?

  19. I love Blackboxes very much~!

  20. Chris Whitney

    Hey, I spotted that Blackbox here on the UCSD campus!!! At first I thought it must be for the San Diego Supercomputer Center, but I was wondering why it was sitting completely across campus at the CalTrans test facility… now I now why🙂 .
    I managed to snap a camera phone photo:

    I’ve been following the Blackbox project since the announcement, and seeing it in person (albeit locked up like a bank vault) was very exciting.

  21. It is a novel idea, I like the “shake table” video, now I would like to see it dropped out of a C-5 at 35,000 ft. Then mabe I would call it bulletproof.

  22. it’s so interesting. thanks for sharing.

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