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Safe and secure and redundant

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 09/16/08 • Media Contact: Susan Knapp • (603) 646-3661 

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New Data Center ensures smooth computing operations

John Gaythorpe
John Gaythorpe at Dartmouth's new Data Center (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

A quiet and uneventful, yet highly technical and strategically important, transition took place earlier this summer: Dartmouth's Computing Services Department opened a new Data Center. Located just a few miles from campus, in Lebanon, N.H., the new, secure facility provides a location for redundant critical computing systems.

"We have reached our storage and backup capacity on campus, so we really needed to build an off-campus facility to meet growing needs to address security concerns and to provide redundancy," says John Gaythorpe, the director of systems services in the Computing Services Department. "This new facility provides Dartmouth with room to grow."

The new facility houses many high-tech features, both in terms of security and safety, but also for increased data storage and redundant network capability. Dual 10 gigabit fiber links the Lebanon Data Center to Dartmouth's Computing Services Department in Hanover, establishing two-way connection between the two facilities. In addition, there are dual 16 gigabit fiber links for backup traffic. This bandwidth allows for complete remote monitoring of the Data Center from Hanover.

The Data Center's stacks of computer servers have access to a central 80 terabytes of information storage, augmenting the 55 TB of storage space on campus. The servers use "blade" technology, minimizing the physical space needed while increasing computing capacity. There are two giant cooling towers that maintain suitable temperatures, and the physical configuration of the Data Center helps the servers stay cool more efficiently.

"The equipment is getting smaller, but it generates more heat," says Gaythorpe. "We're utilizing a new design to help keep the server banks cool. Our layout is such that it eliminates hot spots in the room, making the cooling more effective. And during winter months, we have a system to capitalize on the cool air outside to help with cooling inside."

Only authorized personnel are allowed in, and there is a "man-trap" sequence of entry doors each with access code, ID card, or iris scan verification. There are also numerous motion-activated video cameras mounted throughout the facility. In the case of fire emergencies, a laser-detection system has been installed with an air-lock feature that minimizes damage.

Dartmouth suffered a "brown-out" in 2004, when one of the three phases of its backup electrical supply became overloaded. All the systems in the central computing center went down, and all network services were unavailable for at least a day; some services were not available for the subsequent two days. With the new Data Center, situations like this will be avoided.

The Data Center has two sources of power for the Data Center, so there will be no interruption in services. In addition to a series of batteries that are constantly charged, an on-site generator, which runs on diesel, can supply 1.5 megawatts of power if needed.

"I know it's impossible to always consider every bad thing that can happen," says Gaythorpe, "but events like Sept. 11 or Hurricane Katrina remind us all that we need to do everything we can to be prepared to continue to serve our students, faculty, and staff in the case of an emergency."

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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