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Sun Microsystems Businesses IT

Sun to Create Underground Japanese Datacenter 131

Posted by Zonk
from the only-problem-is-the-view dept.
Kurtz'sKompund writes with word of a Sun project in Japan, one that's taking a somewhat non-standard approach to data center construction. To save on power, heating, and water costs, the consortium is going to be building their center in an abandoned coal mine. The outpost will be created by lowering Blackbox systems into the ground; estimates on savings run to $9 million annually in electricity alone.
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Sun to Create Underground Japanese Datacenter

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  • But... (Score:1, Funny)

    by tubapro12 (896596)
    ...does it run Linux?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2007 @06:41PM (#21393439)
    Sun to Create Japanese Datacenter where the Sun don't shine.
  • Thermal fun (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295)
    This could be an interesting use of the Earth's tendency to be a thermal sink. Caves are always about 55 F, as I recall. Maybe they can use this to their advantage.
    • Re:Thermal fun (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RallyNick (577728) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @07:08PM (#21393617)
      The temperature in a cave means nothing, unless you take into account the cave's ability to dissipate heat somewhere (water or air moving through the cave). If you go inside a cave that's been at constant 55F for a thousand years and you suddenly heat it with 50 kilowatts of power from your data center the temperature will settle at 255F in a hurry. About the only advantage you get from a cave is a constant supply of really cold water (if sufficient rain that year). Ambient air temperature is irrelevant since usually you don't have a strong draft in a deep cave and static air will heat up pretty quickly.
      • by mcrbids (148650)
        If you go inside a cave that's been at constant 55F for a thousand years and you suddenly heat it with 50 kilowatts of power from your data center the temperature will settle at 255F in a hurry.

        But why 255F particularly?
        • by theskipper (461997) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @08:53PM (#21394237)
          Whoa. Coincidentally, that's the optimum incubation temperature for Mothra larvae.

          For the sake of humanity, let's hope that Sun is factoring this into their cooling calculations.

          • Whoa. Coincidentally, that's the optimum incubation temperature for Mothra larvae.
            Thanks a lot asshole! I just peed my pants. You can expect the dry-cleaning bill in the mail.
          • by master_p (608214)
            The next big monster from Japan will be the Sunjira: The Sun datacenter goes 'live' after a big earthquake. Its brain consists of 30000 CPUs directly connected to the internet, filling it with hentai tentacle porn. Its target is, strangely enough, not Tokyo, but Seattle (Redmond, to be more specific)...

            On the other side of the Pacific ocean, chair production reaches an all-time high.
        • because thats what the one byte memory in your temperature sensor maxes out at.
      • Ever hear of conduction cooling?
        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The whole freaking point is that caves are well insulated. As the GP says, caves aren't cooled (or heated), they're just insulated from surface temps.
      • by quanticle (843097)
        Its not a cave, though. Its an abandoned coal mine. That means that there's ventilation infrastructure of some sort. And Sun's datacenter will hardly fill up the entire mine. That means that they can use the unused portions of the mine as a heat exchanger: bring in air from the empty portion to cool the datacenter, and dump the hot air back out to that same area to allow for cooling.

        The issue I see is humidity. Mines, caves and other underground passages are usually more humid than open areas, simply b
        • Re:Thermal fun (Score:4, Interesting)

          by BosstonesOwn (794949) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @10:47PM (#21394839)
          Does not the air conditioning cycle in these black boxes also remove humidity ? I worked at Sun and got to play with these containers. They remove the humidity from in coming air and are cooled with water.

          It seems like the idea is to use the mines water to cool the containers and dump it back into the mine to be cooled and reused. They also have dehumidifiers built into the Black box to prevent condensating moisture inside.

          I worked on wiring one with a couple cohorts and even sweating in these things is a joke , it's pretty much sucked up in about 5 minutes of being sediment in the box.
      • by bendodge (998616)
        I'm pretty sure there are some flaws in your thinking. I was in a coal mine recently (Iron Mt.), and the tour center there used air from the cave to keep the place cool in the summer. They said that the temperature is very very stable.

        But I guess it does have air moving at a respectable clip from the air hole at one end of the mine.

        (It was amazing that men with hand tools dug a hole big enough to put the entire Empire State building in with only the antenna sticking out! And in the dark too.)
      • NORAD (Score:3, Informative)

        by jamrock (863246)
        You raise an interesting point about heat dissipation in an underground datacenter. I remember seeing something on NORAD years ago about the construction of the command center inside Cheyenne Mountain. One of the things that stuck with me was the fact that there was no dedicated heating system: they merely ducted the waste heat from their 150+ mainframes throughout the entire installation. Kept 'em all nice and toasty warm, even in a Colorado winter.
      • People have been using geothermal heat pumps [wikipedia.org] for maintaining house temperature as a sustainable alternative to the traditional gas/electric air conditioner/furnace combination for years now (1 million installed base currently). A liquid is moved through pipes placed in the ground - in direct contact with earth or water - to remove the waste heat for cooling, and to absorb heat for warming.

        While this approach may save money for the company, and is certainly a 'greener' approach than traditional data centers

        • 2. EMP security. In the event of a nuclear war or similar event that could produce significant EMP, an underground site is your best bet. If wired properly, I am sure Sun's Black Boxes also serve as nice Faraday cages as an added bonus. Aside from a direct hit on the mineshaft, your data will be secure.


          Except for the fact that while my data would be safe, I would be toasted by said nuclear explosion, your argument looks like an excellent marketing point, Mr McNeally.
  • Sun to Create Underground Japanese Datacenter
    How do they expect it not to melt at those tempuratures? [timeinc.net]
  • by darthflo (1095225) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @06:51PM (#21393507)
    According to TFA, $9M could be saved on electricity when using 30'000 server cores. Also according to TFA, 10'000 cores are planned with a $405M budget. If power demand scales directly with the number of cores, this would equate savings of $3M annually. Based only on these savings (which of course won't be the only factor, but since TFS and TFA single them out so clearly), this project breaks even after a measly 135 years or about five and a half times Sun's current age.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      According to TFA, $9M could be saved on electricity when using 30'000 server cores. Also according to TFA, 10'000 cores are planned with a $405M budget. If power demand scales directly with the number of cores, this would equate savings of $3M annually. Based only on these savings (which of course won't be the only factor, but since TFS and TFA single them out so clearly), this project breaks even after a measly 135 years or about five and a half times Sun's current age.

      You need to rethink your analysis - y
    • Your savings estimate is only correct if it costs nothing to create a datacenter. Google recently spent $600 mil on their Lenoir datacenter. To calculate value, you'd have to compare the installation and upkeep costs of other facilities.
    • by Drenaran (1073150)
      Yes, that would be true if ground level facilities and the hardware itself was all freely available. Oh, and construction crews, technicians, engineers, supporting staff, *list goes on*, are also entirely willing to volunteer their time and equipment.

      What you should be doing is comparing the cost of this project to a comparably equiped ground level datacenter.
      • by Sanat (702)
        You are, of course, correct in your assessment.

        Your signature is strangely and eerily correct also.

        "Knowledge is power. However, once you have sufficient power, knowledge is optional."

  • by rueger (210566) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @06:55PM (#21393535) Homepage
    The Blackbox containers are robust enough to withstand earthquakes, being capable of withstanding a quake of magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale.

    I don't know, but placing servers 100m underground in a place that routinely is hit by large earthquakes seems a dubious idea. The containers themselves may survive a quake, but what happens when the disused coal mine collapses onto and around them? Even if the containers and servers survive, will the power and data cables? If the tunnels collapse how will you get to and from the servers for maintenance?
    • by darthflo (1095225) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @07:20PM (#21393675)
      Two possible outcomes:
      1: Mine collapses, buries everything under millions of tons of rocks and stuff, Blackboxes and cabling survives, Sun market's "the world's most secure datacenter".
      2: Mine collapses, buries everything under millions of tons of rocks and stuff, Blackboxes and/or cabling gets scratched and/or really damaged, Sun hires Godzilla (this is Japan, where Godzilla's big in, remember?) to smash away them rocks and free the mine once again.
      • And you know what happens when Godzilla comes around - The military fires rockets and microwaves into him, just making him mad, and he wipes out Tokyo - AGAIN. That Godzilla, he's a fickle one - he's only your friend until you make him bleed profusely...
        • "The military fires rockets and microwaves into him, just making him mad"

          We all know that governments can't do anything right. Sun is a corporation, when they fire missles and microwaves Godzilla will pull his socks up and dig harder.
      • Do you mean to say that Godzilla does contract work?
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Not to mention the fact that coal dust is extremely explosive. I wouldn't like to see a few sparks in there after a major quake. But then again I guess they know what they are doing.
      • by bwt (68845)
        I spent five minutes trying to come up with a joke related to "black lung" but for datacenters. I failed. Can people mod me as funny anyway? Thanks.
    • by couchslug (175151) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @08:01PM (#21393945)
      "If the tunnels collapse how will you get to and from the servers for maintenance?"

      Good reason to have onsite admins!
      • and they have the internet, which means they can order pizza via the internet...

        flawless plan!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        "If the tunnels collapse how will you get to and from the servers for maintenance?"

        man ssh
        • by dotgain (630123)
          My favourite option is: ssh root@bigserver.downhole.jp --replace-failed-disk /dev/rdsk/c0t3d0 --with-this-one-here-on-my-desk
    • by writermike (57327)

      [...] what happens when the disused coal mine collapses onto and around them?
      My guess is it'll be a cooler version of the story about a computer that was lost inside of a wall. "Damn! It responds to a ping, but all I see is this big hole in the ground." ;-)

    • If it happens and you end up with damaged hardware you consider it a loss.

      However Sun and most heavy iron server companies now Have ILOM enabled systems. Quite easily managed from remote locations. I have loaded firmware onto e10k's in New Jersey from a project in Colombia via remote connections.

      */me shudders with the thought of the new DST and patching all the Sun boxes earlier this year*

      Really are great tools Integrated Lights Out Management is , I have to say one of the best inventions that they have mad
    • by thewiz (24994) *
      I think you're getting a little ahead of yourself.
      After all, wouldn't putting blackboxes 100 meters down inside a coal mine make them impossible to find?
  • by creimer (824291) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @06:57PM (#21393549) Homepage
    Since this is a basement dweller's dream job come true, Sun won't have to pay too much for labor.
  • So...essentially, they're using the same process as (what Wikipedia refers to as) Geo-exchange, [wikipedia.org] only instead of bringing the constant-temperature (hot or cold, depending on surface temperature) to a building on the surface with heat exchangers, they are bringing the 'building' to be cooled underground.

    I guess that's... cool?

    - RG>
  • ...especially in Japan, where there is literally a sea of coolant all around. At least leave the computing equipment at the surface and do heat exchange with the cave climate.
    • by mstromb (869949)
      I guess you don't live near the sea. Salt water is extremely corrosive, which would seem to me to present some problems when it comes to cooling a datacenter.
      • by hjf (703092)
        what about setting up water cooled servers, with water running on a closed circuit, through a stainless steel sink at sea? no corrosion there. The coasts of my country (Argentina) face the antarctic currents of the Atlantic ocean, and keeps it COLD all year long.
  • Damn flu medicine makes my head feel like its full of glue. I could have sworn the title was "Sun To Create Underground Japanese Detector". I had to go read the article to try and figure out what underground Japanese are, and why you would want to detect them.
    • by kabloom (755503)

      I had to go read the article to try and figure out what underground Japanese are, and why you would want to detect them.
      They're like secret Asians.
  • Somebody (Score:4, Funny)

    by woot account (886113) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @07:26PM (#21393709)
    has been reading Cryptonomicon.
  • From TFA...

    The containers will be lowered 100m 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.

    Not to be thick-headed here, but what happens when they have a hardware failure? I'm not sure what the failure rate is on their hardware, but it must be greater than zero, right?

    • failover to a good machine, swap out the bad one during annual maintenance. Sun already has a product for dealing with that particular issue ( Sun Cluster ) and it's open-source
    • Not to be thick-headed here, but what happens when they have a hardware failure? I'm not sure what the failure rate is on their hardware, but it must be greater than zero, right?
      Given Sun's recent push towards grid computing, I'm betting they'll just shut off the node, mark the loss and call it a day. Replication is amazingly win if you get it right.
  • I remember the last San Fran Earthquake and we had to get a warm site up and running using all the backup tapes from our offsite storage company. The storage vault was 100% ok, the warm site was 100% ok and I couldn't get anyone to drive the truck through a post apocalyptic thunder dome. I suspect that getting a bunch of nerds to work in an abandoned coal mine will be greeted by dumbstruck looks when you see a giant fire breathing dinosaur.
  • I agree that it's always cool underground (in the 50s F range) however a problem they might run into is the humidity. Depending on the cave/mine the air can be quite humid and could pose a problem for the machinery. Seems like a tough thing space to "air condition" the water content.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WoLpH (699064)
      Since the computers produce a lot of heat the humidity wouldn't be much of a problem, try putting a computer in a humid garage, the computer will be just about the only thing dry in there.

      I do wonder how much this thing will really save, I wouldn't be so surprised if the costs are comparable to the normal installation (remember, the normal installation costs for these things is near 0, they just need a power, network and water plug). If they'd just put the server somewhere with some other cooling source ava
  • I know they want to be safe from Godzilla, but is it safe from Megalon's powerful digging drill hands??? I think not!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2007 @08:40PM (#21394161)
    A couple of examples come to mind.

    The Government of Canada marijuana farm is located in an old copper mine in Manitoba. You can't beat the security, which is something mentioned in tfa. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2001/08/02/marijuana_010802.html [www.cbc.ca]

    A solar neutrino observatory is installed in an old mine in Sudbury, Ontario, Canads. It has the advantage of being impervious to almost all kinds of radiation, except of course for neutrinos. http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca/ [queensu.ca]

    As I look at the other posts, I see lots of naysayers. Well there are at least a couple of cases where old mines have been used successfully for other things.
    • by fm6 (162816)
      Remember seeing a documentary on an ultra-deep salt mine in Utah, now largely played out. Big empty space, no light except for what you bring with you. Lots of worn out machinery that's just abandoned because its value as scrap is less than the cost of bringing it back up. Creepy.

      One other use: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Vo4vEgxHtI [youtube.com]
  • Old mines have a nasty tendency to flood, or at least slowly get a few inches of water over the years from seepage.
  • I think I've been watching too many cheesy movies.
    I read that as "Sun to Create Underground Japanese Dictator"
  • Is it just me, or does this sound like the opening setup of a FPS game?

    "Deep in an underground laboratory, something has gone wrong... terribly wrong."
    • by DeadChobi (740395)
      Hang on, I'll go get the crowbar and the hazmat suit.
      • by KingOfGod (884633)
        Sounds like the perfect geek plot for a Half-Life style game, only with servers and geeks.

        Your name is Theo de Raadt. The year is 2048 and you've been set on a mission to check out what's wrong with that server in Remote Data Mining Facility #2345. Once you're lowered into the bowels of the datacenter, all you have on you is a hazmat suit, a 1U rack server and a crowbar. You notice that the container you're supposed to service is open, and a feint glow is emitting from it...
  • Isn't this Neal Stephenson's idea?
  • by Pooua (265915) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @10:13PM (#21394663) Homepage
    They save a bundle in HVAC costs, but now they face the prospect of black lung disease...
  • NERV??!? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hercynium (237328) <Hercynium@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:30PM (#21395091) Homepage Journal
    If they name the systems in that facility the MAGI, I think it's time I move a few hundred miles inland.
  • the technology is too problematic, runs too hot, requires a narrowband of operating conditions and so on. Why not invest in the technology rather than workarounds?
  • This is Japan after all. Clearly, they will be building a secret base where they will build an army of giant robots to either
    a) defend against extra-terrestrial attacks,
    b) attack Microsoft.
  • duh how the hell does this reduce heating problems and shit? it seems to me if you build the darn thing where the sun don't shine as an earlier poster said, then it would get hotter not colder cuz the cottonpickin earth all around would serve as an insulator and cause the datacenter to fry itself and shit.
    • It's hard to tell whether it's what you said or the way you said it which makes you look the more stupid, here.
  • by hey (83763)
    Data center - right!
    Its going to be Dr. Evil's lair.
  • At the end of TFA it says cost will be $405M... all that for a saving of $9M in electricity. That's about a 2% yearly return - pants.

    If its security, then maybe, but in comparison to the depreciation on $405M of computer hardware, the Green IT is just sales gumph.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Shouldn't you subtract the amount it would cost them to build the plant above ground form the 405 million?

      Pius building a plant that costs more money because it saves energy is a good thing. I don't seem to see a lot of post praising a good corporate decision.
      • by mahju (160244)
        Your right, I should have said, take a $400M asset and then then put it underground in a really safe place for an earthquake prone island...
  • Putting it in a cave is not a win. The ground water cooling is great, but by putting it in a cave they are severely limiting their access to air-side economization, which is bringing in filtered outside air directly when it is cooler than the rack's exhaust temperature. And if you're doing it right, the rack's exhaust temperature is 95F+ (when we do a hot aisle, we make it a hot aisle dangit). As a professional in the efficient datacenter arena, the mention that they are still using chillers at all when the
    • As another datacenter efficiency advocate, I've been looking for references of using natural (low temperature) water for free-cooling. Is there a place/consultancy/resource to look up figures like this? -- e.g. 30MW of cooling with 60F water ~flow rate of 13,650gpm -- without chillers? Thanks in advance! FF
  • Put them underground. The surrounding environment is constant(about 65 F), no rain, more secure, money savings.

    Plus you could have a secret nuclear power plant for your world domination plans.

    Although the Japanese do have a design for a completely unmanned plant.

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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