Sept. 21, 2006 • Volume 15 Number 2

(L-R) Vice President for Information Technology Marian Moore and Information Technology Services administrators Leo Chaharyn, Paulo Jacome and Michael Bourque in the Universityís new data center, which occupies a space once used as a chapel. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

IT Administrators Tout New Data Center

Set to open next month, facility predicted to enhance tech resources

The opening of Boston College's new data center next month will better enable the University to harness its information technology resources, support faculty research, and secure and bolster critical information systems, according to administrators.

The center, located in an area between the north and south wings of St. Clement's Hall on the Brighton Campus, will provide Boston College with far greater systems and data management than is possible in its current facility, located atop O'Neill Library.

Information Technology Services (ITS) administrators and staff will spend the next month moving into the facility, a tricky task considering the fact that managers have set a goal of keeping service outages to a minimum [See related item].

Along with the data center, several key ITS offices will relocate to St. Clements from other locations across the University.

"With this center we will be able to offer all of our users - students, faculty, and staff - far greater support for their computational needs while controlling costs," said Vice President for Information Technology Marian Moore. "This is a benefit to everyone."

As computers become ever less expensive, and more ubiquitous in every function of the University, says Associate Vice President for Information Technology Michael Bourque, it is the data - from every e-mail to every financial record - that has become more valuable and must therefore be protected, managed and stored as needed.

"In terms of our reliability and capabilities to adapt to changing needs, this puts us at a whole new level," said Bourque, who has overseen the planning, development and now occupation of the facility.

Bourque said the facility in O'Neill was not adaptable to the University's changing needs and was difficult to manage. Three power outages occurring within 18 months made it clear that a new center was needed, he said.

"It also gives us room to grow," said Moore. "We have planned expansion space when it becomes necessary."

Moore said that the center helps to make Boston College more competitive with similar research universities. IT administrators from other Atlantic Coast Conference universities recently toured the new facility and were quite impressed, she adds.

"This data center stacks up very well with, or even a little above, the level of our peers," she said.

The data center is comprised of a two-tiered 4,500 square foot room, the lower level of which will be home to numerous racks on which several hundred servers will reside. Administrators say the facility layout can accommodate future growth.

The servers handle such tasks as hosting Web pages, managing e-mail systems and running databases, and will be supported by a complex network and robotic tape complex to meet storage and backup needs.

IT's new facility also must accommodate the many miles of data and power cables necessary for the computers to function, as well as six industrial strength air conditioners that compensate for the heat generated by the many servers.

"It's like a calculus problem: As computing power changes so do the requirements for electricity, air conditioning and floor space," he said.

A key feature to the new facility is a 1,500-kilowatt diesel generator, which will enable the center to remain operational even in the face of a long-term unexpected power outage. Another feature is the high-speed dual fiber optic line running in a loop from St. Clement's Hall to the Newton Campus and to the Main Campus; if any section of the lines fail, its traffic will be automatically rerouted.

"What's most important is that it's a space that's been designed as a data center," said Bourque. "The O'Neill Library data center was designed before the era of network computing."

Bourque praised the efforts and expertise of BC Facilities Management and ITS professionals such Construction Manager Thomas Runyon and Director of Systems and Operations Leo Chaharyn, as well as the Network Services and Systems teams, for their contributions to the new data center.

"We are greatly served by the experience they brought to the table in making this happen," said Bourque. "This has been a fantastic team effort."

A unique feature about the data center is that it occupies a space once used as a chapel when the Archdiocese of Boston housed a college seminary in St. Clement's. Moore says she realized immediately that the former chapel was the best place for the data center. Project administrators made it a priority to preserve the chapel's stained glass windows, which was accomplished by installing new glass around them to maintain energy efficiency.

"We are one of only a few data centers in the world with stained glass windows," laughed Bourque. - Stephen Gawlik.

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