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Despite storm aftermath, OHIO data center keeps its cool

Monday, July 2, 2012
Sean O'Malley  

Calm before the storm: Crane operators had blue skies and calm winds in March while installing OHIO's new data center chiller. The unit would help keep OHIO IT systems online during the June 29 storms and subsequent power outages.As violent storms ripped through the region on June 29 leaving millions to face sweltering summer temperatures without power, Ohio University's data center kept its cool – literally.

When commercial power went down at 6:13 pm on Friday, the university's recently upgraded backup generators and cooling systems went into action, keeping mission-critical services like Blackboard, eBusiness Suite, PeopleSoft, and the university Front Door up and running until power could be restored at 7:49 am the following day. The systems also withstood multiple power blinks on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

According to Chief Information Officer Brice Bible, updated cooling and electrical protection are part of OIT's ongoing efforts to modernize and stabilize the university's IT infrastructure." We are pleased that these crucial backups were available when we needed them," Bible said. The data center received a new chiller in March 2012, and portions of its electrical systems were upgraded in 2010. Additional electrical upgrades are planned in the coming years.

"The data center performed exactly as designed," said OIT systems administration team leader Harold Cullison. "It kept the university's servers cool during the outage and transferred the load back to commercial power without a hitch." Unlike personal computers, enterprise-wide computer systems do not react well to sudden power loss, and their operating temperature range is narrow. Even a momentary electrical blip or a rise of a few degrees in temperature can have catastrophic effects.

OIT's disaster preparedness does not end at the data center's doorway. OHIO and Wright State have entered into a partnership to provide space in their data centers for backup instances of each other's critical systems. Should an extreme event render a data center inoperable, production systems could be brought online in the other location. Currently, a test instance of OHIO's eBusiness Suite is running at Wright State, and similar environments are in the works for Blackboard and PeopleSoft. Exact details for disaster contingencies are still being worked out, but the project is gaining momentum.

According to Bible, the partnership revolves around an exchange of space, equipment, and expertise rather than money. "This is a win-win situation for both schools," Bible said. "The more we talk through things, the more we find places where we can share technology."

Related Links

OHIO emergency information 
University praised for response to severe storm