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What the inside of a container data center looks like

Sun Project BlackboxThere has been a lot of talk about container data centers lately (sometimes also called modular data centers). Most of the time we are only presented with an image of a branded shipping container, but let’s face it, all the interesting stuff is on the inside!

So, since we were curious, we here at Pingdom dug through various product pages and presentations to find pictures of the insides of container data centers. As you will see, different manufacturers have very different approaches to building these things.

We have included pictures from Rackable’s ICE Cube 40-foot container data center, and Sun’s 20-foot Project Blackbox (recently redubbed to the slightly less appealing “Sun Modular Datacenter S20”), along with some basic specs for those interested.

Project Blackbox

  • 20’ x 8’ shipping container
  • 8 racks (7 racks with a total of 280 rack units available for servers)


The ICE Cube

  • 40’ x 8’ shipping container (there is also a 20’ option)
  • 28 racks (with 1,400 rack units available for Rackable’s half-depth servers)

ICE cube
ICE cube
ICE cube
ICE cube

It should be mentioned that there are also other options for container data centers, such as the FOREST data center from Verari (which probably looks entirely different inside as well).

Judging by recent news, it looks like container data centers aren’t just a fad, but have come to stay. Sun has been pushing Project Blackbox a lot, and Rackable has stated that they expect to ship 20-50 container units in 2008. Microsoft will be using between 150-220 container units to build up their Chicago data center, possibly from several different providers. Perhaps others will follow suit?

Images courtesy of Sun and Rackable.


Impressive stuff. I want one of those in my back yard… :D I wonder what they cost?

I figure if Sun Modular Datacenter is the semi tractor trailer business, then companies like Elliptical Mobile Solutions [1] are in the luxury sedan business.

Now, who is going to be in the valet and parking deck business? :)


The ICE Cube looks like a sci-fi film prop. Remembers me of Universal Soldier, somehow.

Inside a Verari Forest here:

@Jasper: You get started at just around $450k configured but as with anything… the more you fill it, the higher the price.

That’s so awesome! Growing up I always wanted a laptop but now a I want one of these babies. I wonder what the power bill would be for having one of these run at full capacity for a month.

APC has had a mobile Data Center solution for two years now. It’s called Infrastruxure Express.

Here’s a video tour inside a Rackable Ice Cube:

Those both look great, but I’d put my money on the Sun system. Every rackable system I’ve ever bought has had horrible build quality, terrible components and been a total pain in my ass. They spend more time on lighting effects and the marketing on the outside of the container than they do on making systems that don’t go down if you bump them slightly.

Why is it painted black? Solar heating alone will be a problem. I’m sure if they painted it white they would cut the cost for the AC tremendously.

Solar energy is around 700 watts/square meter. The effect of solar heating is negligible compared to the waste heat output by a rack full of machines.

We had a demo of one of these at work today. They are not painted black – that’s just for the sexy look. When delivered they are white. Cost is about $500K. All you need is power and water. There are redundant hookups on both sides.

Very impressive. They said they ar being used on moviesets for onsite rendering.


holy crap batman i want 2 sh*t gimme 5 min and a leatherman hehe sun microsystems is the sh%t, my dream job !

The Sun “Blackbox” is not actually black. The demo above is the only black one.

B U T Full!!.. I’ll take 2…. :D (In my wildest dreams…)

ob. Imagine aa Beowulf cluster of these.

Two words, Hopelessly impractical.

I was thinking the other way around.

There isn’t a lot of work needed to add new containers. You don’t have hire a whole construction crew to redesign your data center or build an extension to your building to house new servers. I think I can see a very practical use especially with startup companies and their possible very short lifetime or popularity explosion.

And if the company fails, Sun and Rackable can rent them and as soon as people can’t pay anymore, they just comeback and roll it away.

cool, I’m still interested in a laptop, though, cause I mean, ya can’t very well take one of these over to a friend’s house, but still, cool post!

So who would use this? Would this be in the event of a disaster? Or is more for military/CIA hush-hush operations?