The U's New Data Center

The University of Utah is nearing completion of its new data center that will significantly increase its storage and server capabilities. The new data center is housed in an existing building, the old Coca Cola bottling plant at 9th South and West Temple. When the bottling company abandoned the building, WorldCom purchased it, gutted the interior and reinforced the structure so that it could serve as an earthquake-proof data center. When WorldCom ceased to exist, the University of Utah purchased the 74,000 sq. ft. building for $4.5 million. The University is now completing the construction of the interior rooms and the cooling and energy supply systems. CHPC plans to move in during the spring of 2012.

The design team, working with the University's Office of Sustainability, has come up with a plan that will unify in one secure, stable and efficient space all the cyberinfrastructure-based computing and storage needs of the university, including the University Hospital, the Huntsman Cancer Center, and Utah Education Network, which provides internet connectivity for all public (K-12) and state-supported higher education in Utah. In the future, there may be additional partners housed at the site.

A primary concern is energy efficiency. Even though Utah has a very low cost per kilowatt-hour, the electric bill for the data center would be prohibitive without energy conservation. The building will initially have about 2000 servers each generating a huge demand for electricity and creating a tremendous amount of heat. The building will use ambient air and water cooling systems. Rather than using air conditioners all year, during the cold months outside air will be used to cool the data center.

University servers are now housed in various locations around campus. CHPC has its servers at the KOMAS building in Research Park, the INSCC building, and the Student Services Building. In spite of the many locations, there is still not enough room for CHPC to expand efficiently. And the three locations all have their unique cooling and electrical supply problems. With one well-planned and well-constructed center, CHPC's efficiency and stability will increase.

Along with the improvements to the building's interior, the University also needs to lay the optical fiber that will physically connect the data center with the University. Currently the University connects to the world through optical fibers that run along the Utah Department of Transportation's TRAX lines and highways, connecting to the regional telecommunication node near the SLC airport. The University received a $2.6 million grant to upgrade these optical fiber connections, allowing for the efficient transfer of the large data sets created by our computationally intensive research.
To see photos of the current status, please go to http://www.chpc.utah.edu/~corbato/new-data-center/photos/05-jan-2012/.