Blackboxes as data center LEGO bricks

So, we have a small data center in a container — 1 TEU. Great! Now we can build a datacenter with components that resemble LEGO bricks. Or can we?
The Blackbox needs power. And it needs [water] cooling. And then there’s backups to think about.
So one might wonder: what might be the ratio of power generation, cooling and fuel bricks to compute bricks?
Brian Utterback thinks we can get about 1000KVA in a TEU. Assuming a .5 power factor, and 250 300W systems in a Blackbox that yields about 5-6 Blackboxes per 1 TEU power generators.
[UPDATE: Generators come in much denser packages. For example, this Kohler 12 RES generator (specs) takes just over 9 sq. ft. of space.]
One liter of Diesel releases about 113 kilowatt-hours (says Wikipedia). A TEU is about
39,000 liters, or about 150 hours of operation at 300kW. I should adjust that for the inefficiency of the generator that would burn this Diesel. So, ~1 container’s worth of Diesel for every five days, per-Blackbox.
Brian also thinks that a 150-ton chiller can fit in 1TEU. Blackbox needs 60 tons of cooling, so we’re looking at one TEU of cooling for every 2.5 Blackboxes. Does the generator need cooling? Or does it cool itself? Gotta find out.
[UPDATE: Carrier has a 600 ton cooling unit in 1 TEU! So the ratios below are all wrong. The true ratios are much better than that. HT: John Hoffman.]
Of course, if you can pump water from a large body of water then you may be able to avoid cooling units altogether. I wonder what quality of water the Blackbox needs. Will river water do? Anyhow, one might be able to cool many compute bricks with much less than 1TEU of pump/filtration equipment.
So, at minimum one would need, rounding up: three TEUs (one blackbox, one generator, one
diesel tank), if you backup over the network.
Ratios: 1 generator TEU and 1 fuel tank TEU for every 6
compute TEUs. If you can’t get cold water then you need to add 1-2 TEUs of
cooling and drop to 4 compute TEUs. Optionally add a tape library TEU and substract a compute TEU. The result: a complete data center in 8 TEUs, 3-6 of which can be compute TEUs, depending on whether you have access to water and wheter you need tape backups.
[UPDATE: So, actually, we have 1 TEU of cooling for every 10 TEUs of compute/storage, and better for power. So we’re talking about 3 TEUs rounded up for power, fuel and cooling for the first ten compute/storage bricks. Wow. And you can put these almost anywhere.]
Speaking of backups… How about backup to disk, using a Blackbox filled with Thumpers? Never ship tapes off-site. Backup to redundant VTLs made of Thumper Blackboxes and, when they fill up, add more, and you can always put one of these on a truck and ship it for safe storage off-site. It seems likely that securing the transportation of a Blackbox should be easier than securing the transportation of a box of tapes too. We used to say “never understimate the bandwidth of a van full of tapes.” Now we might say “never underestimate the bandwidth of a container ship full of Blackboxes.”

~ by nico on October 19, 2006.

2 Responses to “Blackboxes as data center LEGO bricks”

  1. brilliant! An oil rig or say Saudi Aramco could get away with only two TEUs (one blackbox, one generator), they have all the oil they require. Better still they could divert the gas they currently burn off and pipe that into the generator. Saves on diesel, and may reduce global warming. Ok, so I haven’t done the maths (or chemistry), but it sounds like a good fit!

  2. I know little about this, but I’ll speculate that an oil rig couldn’t use the oil it produces for power because it is crude oil, but you’re probalbly right about using natural gas from the same well (where there is any). In any case, oil rigs need a lot of power, and so they already have ways of getting it, so that powering a compute brick shouldn’t be hard… So oil rigs may be able to get away with a single compute brick!

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