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Visitors Get First Look at U-M’s New Modular Data Center

June 14, 2012 @ 12:00 am

The University of Michigan’s new Modular Data Center (MDC) was filled to capacity and humming on June 14 – with nearly 250 visitors and VIPs from across campus, as well as the state of Michigan. The occasion was the ribbon-cutting ceremony for U-M’s latest and most ecologically friendly data center. The day began with brief remarks by U-M’s AVP and Chief Information Officer, Laura Patterson; AVP for Research Computing, Dan Atkins; Chief Financial Officer Tim Slottow; and Director of Communications Systems and Data Centers, Andy Palms. Atkins, who reminded that audience that his academic career has spanned most of the modern computer age, gave a brief history lesson to remind us how far computing has come. With the help of Andy Caird, Atkins showed part of the IIiac II computer, designed and built at the University of Illinois in the early 1960’s when he was a graduate student there.

Andy Caird, director of high-performance computing at U-M, shows the Illiac II component during Atkins' speech.

“This massive plug-in component stores only two 4-bit numbers and adds them together — that’s all it does,” said Atkins. “The entire machine was at least eight times larger than the Modular Data Center, and required hundreds of these frames plugged into 12-foot high racks. In contrast, this MDC can hold tens of thousands of enormously more powerful computers and used in parallel offer computing at least 10 trillion times more powerful than Illiac 2.” He went on to highlight the importance of the MDC to the expansion of research computing at U-M. The MDC is the future home of Flux, the university’s shared HPC research computing cluster.

Andy Palms points to the louvers and exhaust fans of the Modular Data Center. Photo courtesy of Terra Molengraff

Visitors took tours of the structure – roughly the size of a double-wide trailer – led by Andy Palms and Dick Boyd, director of telecommunications operations, who described the MDC’s airflow technology. “Rather than running what amounts to a very expensive air conditioner all year long, the MDC allows us to essentially open the windows during the colder months, and limit air conditioning to the few months in the summer when we really need it,” said Palms.

View of the upper ventilation area in the Modular Data Center

U-M received positive press coverage for being the first university in the country to employ this new kind of sustainable data center. The following list is a sample of the coverage. June 15, University Record – Photo and caption June 14, IT Business Edge – University of Michigan’s EcoPOD goes doublewide June 14, Data Center Knowledge – Michigan Unveils First HP EcoPOD Modular Data Center June 13, Concentrate Media – U-M’s energy-saving Modular Data Center cools down computing costs June 7, ZD Net – University of Michigan thinks green with modular data center June 1, Data Center Dynamics – University of Michigan Deploys HP EcoPod for HPC May 31, Geek Zone Technology Community – University of Michigan takes important strides in research and sustainable computing May 30, Voice and Data – University of Michigan Reveals Eco-friendly Data Center May 30, Marc Hamilton’s Blog – University of Michigan’s New EcoPOD Opening Soon May 29, CBS Detroit – U-M takes important strides in research and sustainable computing May 21, University Record – U-M to unveil new eco-friendly data center  


June 14, 2012
12:00 am
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