Sun was originally invited to the test, but then Oracle gutted Sun's PR team, so nobody who answered the phone knew anything about anything. It was sad; though getting Sun would have been the icing on the cake, the cake was still quite tasty with titans HP, IBM, and Dell onboard.
All the testing was conducted at the ANCL (Advanced Network Computing Laboratory), at the University of Hawaii. The weekend before the tests started, major earthquakes hit Chile and spawned tsunami warnings on Hawaii. The plan had been to spend that Saturday in the lab complete the preparations for the tests, including doing dry runs with Ixia's IxChariot and IxLoad testing tools. That was not to be. Instead of a day of preparation, we ate pancakes in Brian Chee's living room and watched CNN breathlessly predicting the demise of the state of Hawaii. Hawaii survived, but Saturday was lost; we spent Sunday in the lab instead.
Once all the parts were in place, we had a very tight schedule and a series of tests to run on each big box as it landed in the lab. There wasn't much room for error -- possibly a half-day per vendor that could be stretched a bit if something really bad happened. For example, a 1,000-pound crate full of blades could somehow take an extra five days to reach the lab.
I'm not 100 percent sure of the reasons why, but HP's chassis almost didn't make it in time. As it turns out it's a good thing it did arrive, because HP's blade wound up the winner, though it was touch-and-go for a while. What was supposed to be a two-day shipping time stretched out to seven days and caused ulcers to flare across six time zones.
It finally showed up at the last possible minute, and just to increase the drama, it nearly fell off the back of the freight truck liftgate while being delivered. Five guys including myself were standing around the back of that truck, watching the delivery drivers roll it out. Apparently, the liftgate was rated for only 750 pounds or so, and the half-ton rack caused it to descend early, though part of it was still in the truck. The whole thing started tipping over. All of us jumped forward, pushed on the crate, and averted disaster, although the rack landed rather hard. In the end, there was no damage and the only problem was one blade that popped a single DIMM from its socket. It was nothing short of a miracle all around.
The arrival of Dell's hardware was more like an old-fashioned "Star Trek" beam-down. Dell overnighted the chassis, expecting it to take at least two days for the 600-pound rack to get to the lab. In fact, it traveled 5,000 miles and arrived the same day. Unlike HP, Dell's team shipped with FedEx and apparently made the cutoff, which resulted in the rack arriving 18 hours later -- a truly amazing display of efficiency.