Sun to set up datacentre in coal mine

Shipping containers will be used to house servers

Sun Microsystems and a consortium of other organisations are going to lower an enclosed self-contained datacentre into a Japanese coal mine. The goal is to set up an underground datacentre, using up to 50% less power than a ground-level one.

The coolant will be ground water and the site's temperature is a constant 15 degrees Celsius all year, meaning no air-conditioning will be needed outside the containers. This reduces the energy required for the water chillers.

The self-contained datacentre will be housed in a shipping container and comes courtesy of Sun, which sells the enclosed datacentres, called Blackboxes.

It is estimated that up to US$9 million (NZ$13 million) of electricity costs could be saved annually if the centre were to run 30,000 server cores.

Sun is working with eleven other companies, including ISP Internet Initiative Japan, BearingPoint, Itochu Techno-Solutions and NS Solutions. They will form a joint venture with Sun. NTT Communications and Chuo University are also involved.

The disused coal mine is located in the Chubu region on Japan's Honshu island. Sun will build 30 Blackbox self-contained datacentres containing a total of 10,000 servers (cores). This can be increased to 30,000 cores if there is the demand for it.

The containers will be lowered into the mine and linked to power, water cooling and network lines via external connectors.

Sun has been developing its Blackbox concept for three years and a typical one has 250 servers mounted in seven racks inside a standard 20-foot shipping container. Sun says that with T-series processors, a single Blackbox can hold up to 2,000 cores, providing 8,000 simultaneous processing threads.

Such a subterranean datacentre will be easier to secure against unauthorised entry and terrorist attacks. The Blackbox containers are robust enough to withstand earthquakes, being capable of withstanding a quake of magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale. The Nihonkai-Chubu earthquake shook the region in 1983.

The project has been initially estimated to cost US$405 million and the site should start offering datacentre services to public and private sector customers in 2010.

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Tags technologySun MicrosystemsBlackboxcoal mine

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