Datacenter consolidation plans announced

June 30, 2011

Faculty and administrative staff managing their own servers and datacenters can now receive funding to improve their IT infrastructure through a new datacenter migration program sponsored by the Office of the University CIO and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Treasurer.

Under the plan, faculty and administrative leads who choose to close an existing datacenter can receive loans to replace the old systems with new technology in one of the newly identified consolidated datacenters. 

The plan is funded through a $3 million rolling fund that is provided by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Treasurer.

The funds are available as four-year loans. Savings from reduced energy and infrastructure costs can be applied toward repaying the loan.

The plan allows faculty and departments to use the latest technology, recoup space, and lower costs, says Gerry McCartney, CIO and vice president for information technology, and Purdue's Olga Oesterle England Professor of Information Technology.

"The datacenter consolidation will be more cost-effective and provide a more reliable way of delivering IT services on campus," McCartney said. "The datacenter consolidation is clearly in alignment with both the IT and Purdue strategic plans, and the incentive program offers an opportunity to accomplish this."

John L. Smith, virtualization manager for ITaP's IT Systems and Operations unit, says this is a case where early adopters will have an advantage.

"The sooner an area participates in the project, the more funds will be available for that area's migration," he says. "Waiting until late in the process may mean that most of the funds will have been committed elsewhere."

Smith adds that in some cases the energy savings alone may be enough to repay the entire loan.

Datacenters house anywhere from a few machines to thousands of dedicated computers, known as servers, which perform a variety of automated tasks. Because of the electrical power needed to run the servers and the need to air-condition the rooms to prevent the servers from overheating, datacenters should to be designed as dedicated facilities that operate as efficiently as possible.

However, most of the Purdue datacenters that have sprung up over the years were not designed with operational efficiency in mind, Smith said.

The assistance program is part of a larger effort to consolidate most computer datacenters over the next five years and replace inefficient and high-maintenance older servers with new technology. Many of the current servers on campus will be replaceable by using software that creates virtualized servers on fewer large machines. The goal of the effort is to reduce the number of datacenters on campus from more than 60 to approximately one dozen.

The consolidation will have many advantages, according to Smith. These advantages include:

* Reduced user costs, both from reduced power needs and reduced maintenance.

* Reduced hardware costs through widespread use of server virtualization.

* Improved security and reliability.

* Reduced cooling and power load for the University.

In the pilot phase of this project, four datacenters were streamlined through virtualization and consolidation.  Datacenters in Lilly Hall and Stewart Center were decommissioned, and datacenters in Smith Hall and the University Plant Office Facility saw significant energy and IT savings due to virtualizing of their servers.
The pilot effort is expected to result in a five-year net savings of nearly half a million dollars.

Peter Hollenbeck, professor of science, participated in the closing of one of the datacenters in Lilly Hall. He said his research produces large amounts of data from high-resolution images that needs to be written to a server in real time. He says he has been pleased with the conversion.

"How do you know that IT is working perfectly?" Hollenbeck jokes. "When you don't notice any changes.

"That's been my experience with the datacenter consolidation. Our work has continued, and meanwhile we have new equipment that puts our data into a more secure environment -- because it is mirrored on another server in a different building -- and we don't have to pay for the expensive cooling and maintenance our previous datacenter required."

The initial "destination" datacenters have received upgrades so that they will be capable of providing computer resources for the foreseeable future. The destination datacenters' locations were selected for geographic distribution across campus and available infrastructure. The destination datacenters identified are:

* Physics Hall, Room 394A; College of Science.
* Materials and Electrical Engineering Building, rooms 130H, 214; College of Engineering.
* Potter Engineering Center, Room B016; College of Engineering.
* Haas Hall, Room 234; ITaP.
* Mathematical Sciences Building, rooms B060, G109, G190; ITaP research computing and College of Science.
* Telecommunications Building, Room 210; ITaP Networks.
* Smith Hall, Room 113; College of Agriculture.
* DAT 1 (A stand-alone HP POD facility near Freehafer); ITaP research computing.
* Freehafer Hall, Room G002; ITaP.
* Mann Hall, room to be determined, ITaP.

"Eventually about a third of the consolidated datacenters will be owned by academic or administrative areas on campus," Smith said. "The others will be managed by ITaP, which provides central computing resources for the campus."

Summary reports for the 2010 pilot projects and the destination data center locations can be found at the website for the Office of the University CIO at www.purdue.edu/cio/index.cfm.