IU protects its IT resources with new Data Center
Evoking Indiana University's late president Myles Brand as one of the first to "clearly see the emerging importance of information technology for higher education," IU President Michael McRobbie formally dedicated IU's new $32.7 million Data Center on Nov. 5, 2009.
During dedication remarks, McRobbie, who became IU's first vice president for information technology in 1996 while under Brand, reflected on the list of remarkable IT achievements since, from IU's path-breaking enterprise license agreement with Microsoft and creation of the Internet 2 Network Operations Center, both in 1998, to the $45 million granted by Lilly Endowment Inc. since 1999 for the Pervasive Technology Institute, and creation of the IU School of Informatics in 2000.
"But as IU's capabilities in IT in education and research, and as a key component of the university management, exploded, the lack of adequate facilities to house IU's core IT infrastructure became ever more egregious," McRobbie told a standing room only audience of more than 300 guests. "It takes but a minute to reflect on the consequences of a month at IU without IT. It would bring most of the activities of this institution to a complete and disastrous halt."
Tackling what he described as "the final problem" began with the dedication in 2004 of the Informatics and Communications Technology Center (ICTC) on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, and it ended with the dedication today of the ICTC's larger peer, the IU Data Center.
"Myles had championed the funding for that building through the Legislature," McRobbie said of the IUPUI facility. "Today with the dedication of the Indiana University Data Center we complete this process. Finally the rest of IU's core IT infrastructure, including most of its major supercomputer systems, will be housed in appropriate facilities that will help ensure the continuity of essential and critical IT services for the university community in all but the most calamitous of circumstances."
And even under those circumstances, he explained, any data written on any device in a Data Center machine room is also written automatically to a comparable device at the ICTC machine room in Indianapolis, mitigating the risk of lost or destroyed data.
The low-slung, disaster-resistant facility is visually striking for physical attributes like the 12-foot-high earthen berm that surrounds the building, for the bunkered wall design created by 9,000 cubic yards of cast concrete and by the complete lack of exterior windows.
Designed to withstand an F5 tornado and with just one story above ground level, the Data Center houses three machine rooms -- the Enterprise, Research, and Future Research pods -- sized at just over 11,000 square feet each, as well as a centralized war room and an operations center. Only about 4 percent of the building will normally be occupied by people.
"At 88,000 gross square feet never before has IU built such a formidable facility for so few staff," said IU Vice President for Information Technology Brad Wheeler during the ceremony. "But never before has a single IU facility had such a dramatic effect on the daily lives of so many at all campuses of Indiana University."
Funded by $18.3 million in State of Indiana Academic Facilities Bonds, $8.3 million in IU Infrastructure Reserves and $6 million in IU Capital Projects/Land Acquisition Reserves, the facility will protect assets like the supercomputers Big Red and Quarry and the Bloomington hub of Indiana's statewide I-Light network. As a hub for the school's most advanced technologies, not only will the new facility protect these assets, it will also offer the logistical space and flexibility to keep Indiana University competitive in research advancements and grants.
Located at 2737 E. 10th St. in Bloomington, the Data Center, with the adjacent IU Innovation Center to be dedicated Monday (Nov. 9) and the recently funded, 118,000-square-foot planned Cyberinfrastructure Building, form the foundation of a new IU Bloomington technology park being designed to expand north to the IU Cyclotron Facility.
In closing, McRobbie reminded the audience of a disastrous event in late September 2002.
"That day a tornado touched down just nine miles northwest of here in Ellettsville, causing nearly $4 million in damage. Our old facility would not have survived the impact," he said. "The facility we are dedicating today will do far more than survive the impact. It will protect and preserve vital university resources and will carry us one step closer to the digital future."
This article was first published on Nov. 5, 2009.