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2007-08 Administrative Reports

October 2007

(print version)

An Orange Data Center working on Going Green

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s August 2007 report to Congress, American data centers during 2006 consumed 61 billion kilowatt-hours, enough to run 5.8 million average households or 1.5% of the total amount of power consumed in the country. Data center power consumption is projected to double within the next 4 years.1

The significant 280% increase in the consumption of electrical power by the University’s main data center building from 2.5 million kilowatt-hours in 2000 to 7 million kilowatt-hours in 2006 is in line with the trends reported among our peer institutions. The increase reflects steady growth in the number of University servers and the recent initiatives with high-powered, specialized computing systems for data intensive faculty research. According to Ted Borer, manager of the campus utility plant, the power consumed by the data center now represents nearly 6% of the University’s total power usage.

OIT is committed to helping the faculty maintain excellence in the fields that are so dependent on high-powered computing resources. The challenge going forward is to find ways to meet the increasing power requirements while reducing power consumption whenever possible. As a first step, OIT has begun a major initiative to reduce the number of physical servers used to deliver many of the University’s general enterprise computing services. The strategy, known as “server virtualization,” calls for judiciously consolidating applications and services running on individual physical machines onto fewer, more powerful servers. The net result is a savings in power consumption and a reclaiming of floor space. For example, when fifteen basic servers are consolidated onto a large server, the electric cost savings may be as much as $9,000/year2  because there are fewer physical servers to power and cool. There are additional savings, notably fewer networking connections because a large server needs only one network connection to serve all virtualized servers. And, with virtualization, OIT can much more rapidly set-up and configure servers because no new hardware needs to be ordered or physically installed in the data center room. Virtualization also offers very positive possibilities for OIT’s disaster recovery readiness. Virtual servers can be moved easily from one large server to another, and from one location to another.

OIT has already consolidated 41 servers onto two large, powerful servers. By the end of the calendar year, OIT will have consolidated a total of 60 servers.

OIT is also working closely with colleagues in Facilities and soon with IBM and other IT services vendors to leverage new approaches and technical developments for power savings and more efficient cooling approaches.

1 - Information Week, September 2007
2 - VMWare estimate, http://www.vmware.com/solutoins/consolidation/green


January 2008

(print version)

IT Strategic Planning

“Princeton must consolidate and strengthen its engagement with information technology.” This is the principal message that emerged from a strategic planning process that culminated in an April 2007 report, Information Technology at Princeton University in the 21st Century: A Strategic Direction (http://www.princeton.edu/oit/about/OITstrategicplan.pdf). Based upon research into emerging IT trends, an assessment of Princeton’s IT compared to its peers, and interviews and focus groups involving more than 1,000 members of the University community, the report describes the IT issues that will pose the greatest challenges to Princeton over the coming years.

During the fall, to validate the findings, OIT returned to the University committees, groups, and individuals who participated in the initial interviews and focus groups. OIT has now begun to lay out the specific steps needed to meet Princeton’s current and future IT needs and develop more detailed plans for the highest priority items – security and identity management, digital content management, and collaboration and conferencing tools.

New Home for OIT Staff

Planning for a new administrative building at 701 Carnegie Center in West Windsor is well underway. OIT is looking forward to moving approximately 65% of its staff to this new location. Critical to the success of this move will be maintaining OIT’s connection to campus. OIT is working with KSS Architects of Princeton to ensure that the building design will reflect OIT’s role as an integral part of the University. Other important design elements include providing for organizational flexibility and growth, and supporting the University’s commitment to sustainability.

OIT has created a “701 Carnegie Center” website (http://etc.princeton.edu/701carnegie/) to share information about the new building as it progresses. Most recently, OIT was pleased to learn that the Treasurer’s Office will be joining the OIT staff at 701 Carnegie Center.

New Tools for Collaboration and Sharing of Digital Content

In response to the strategic planning effort that, among other findings, identified collaboration and file sharing as a critical need for faculty and students, Princeton has purchased an 8,000-user license for the Xythos Enterprise Document Management system. The Xythos tool will make it possible for members of the University community to store their digital files (including text, music, images and video) on a server, then gain access to these files through a web browser from any internet-connected location in the world.

Xythos is specifically designed for academic file sharing. It includes a "ticketing" facility that makes it easy for a user to share a document with collaborators outside the University community. Xythos also includes a full suite of document management features, including versioning (keeping track of different versions of a document) and workflow (having a set of people reviewing and, optionally, approving drafts of a document).

Xythos is one of a number of software tools that OIT will be delivering to support collaboration, both on and off campus. Other tools being implemented include Sharepoint (a workgroup collaboration tool) and WebEx (a desktop video and audio conferencing tool).


March 2008

(print version)

Managing Digital Information

OIT’s recent IT strategic planning process (see http://www.princeton.edu/itstrategicplan) identified a number of critical IT needs. Prominent among these was the need for a “data lifeline,” a comprehensive way to store digital information, along with ways to search and archive the data, and policies to control data retention and disposal. In response, OIT recommended that Princeton build an “information infrastructure” that will include the following elements:

  • Massive central data storage
  • Comprehensive data repositories
  • Simple-to-operate collaboration software
  • Enhanced support for managing digital assets

To help oversee these efforts, OIT has hired Mark Ratliff, one of the original developers of JSTOR, a popular online scholarly journal archive, as our new “digital repository architect.” Mark will work with members of the University community to understand their digital content management needs and to ensure that the University’s digital repository architecture is designed to meet those needs.

As part of the digital information management strategy, OIT has acquired and installed several products that will simplify the management of digital content for all members of the Princeton community. Principal among these are: Sharepoint (a collaboration tool for internal University use); Xythos (a web-based product that supports both internal and external file sharing); OnBase (a tool for digitizing, storing, and managing University documents); and DSpace (a research data archiving tool). Mark will work with members of the University community to identify the tools that will best meet their administrative, teaching, and research needs.

OIT has also increased disk storage quotas for members of the University community to 1 GB (gigabyte). The need for more central storage reflects the fact that scholarship and administrative work depend more and more on a growing range of digital materials. We will continue to meet our largest storage demands through a partial cost-recovery model.

Data Center Updates

OIT and the Facilities Department continue to collaborate on projects related to the increase in data center power and space needed to support research, teaching, and administration. As part of this effort, we are committed to helping the University reduce its carbon footprint in the data center arena.

Improvements to 87 Prospect Data Center

On March 15th, a new uninterruptible power supply (UPS) was installed to replace the 26-year-old unit at the main data center. The new UPS provides a power capacity of 750 kVA, a 12% increase in the power available to the machine room floor, and sufficient battery energy to power the research and enterprise servers through the typical electrical dips and surges common during storms in the Princeton area.

OIT continues to implement server virtualization technologies, consolidating applications and services running on individual physical machines onto fewer, more powerful servers. This effort has helped to reduce the increase in the demand for power at the data center.

New South machine room

OIT has plans to increase the number of services covered as part of the University’s IT disaster recovery strategy. Renovations have begun in the New South machine room to expand the space from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet and install additional power and cooling systems for new servers to support this expanded disaster recovery strategy. These servers will take over providing services in the event of a major failure at the main data center at 87 Prospect Avenue. The additional servers will be installed following the completion of the renovation project in August.

Planning for a new data center

Although an on-campus location for a planned new data center has been identified, the University is investigating two new options for meeting our data center needs. OIT and members of the Facilities Department have been meeting with firms specializing in data center construction and service provision to explore the possibility of constructing a data center on the Forrestal Campus that would either be owned by the University or leased from a data center service provider. The outside firms under consideration are well versed in building mission-critical data center facilities and are members of the industry Green Grid consortium (http://www.thegreengrid.org/). We hope to present these additional options to the Grounds and Buildings and Finance Committees of the Board of Trustees in June.


May 2008

(print version)

New Admitted Students website

This year for the first time, all admitted students were able to access a new Admitted Students website immediately upon learning of their admission. On March 31st, most of the 21,262 applicants for the Class of 2012 logged in to learn of their admission decision. The 1,976 admitted students were then able to gain access to a new website designed just for them. There, they could enter profiles, add photographs, browse profiles of their fellow class members, and sign up for one of the two Princeton Preview weekends.

The site served as an information resource and social networking tool for the newly admitted students. OIT’s Web Services developed video and slideshow components for the new site, and the Admissions Office enlisted three students, two faculty members, and an associate dean to author more than two-dozen blog entries about life at Princeton and the academic experience. During that first day, 69 students accepted Princeton's offer of admission directly on the site. More than 1,600 of the admitted students used the site during the first month.

After May 1st, the Admitted Students site was replaced by the “Tigers12” website (www.princeton.edu/tigers12), a permanent website for the class of 2012.

OIT presence in Lewis Science Library

The 87,000-square-foot Lewis Science Library will soon be completed. In addition to housing the astrophysics, biology, chemistry, geosciences, mathematics, physics and statistics collections, the library will be home to several support groups within OIT.

With expanded facilities in Lewis Library, OIT’s Educational Technologies Center (ETC) [etc.princeton.edu] will continue to assist Princeton faculty in using technology in teaching and research. OIT’s New Media Center [www.princeton.edu/newmedia], part of ETC, will provide access to cutting-edge digital media technologies in an expanded, state-of-the-art multimedia laboratory.

The Lewis Library will also contain a new, OIT-operated Broadcast Center. The center’s high definition video studio will assist University professors with live interviews conducted for major television and radio networks. The new facility will also support the recording of major campus events such as the Public Lectures Series, Opening Exercises, and Commencement, as well as the recording of lectures, podcasts, and other multimedia content.

During the summer, many components of the TIGRESS High Performance Computing Center will move into Lewis Library. The Artemis, Woodhen, and Hecate supercomputers will move into a new 1,200 sq. ft. server room in the Lewis Library basement. The server room will provide 400 kVA of conditioned electrical power and 100 tons of dedicated cooling.

The support staffs for TIGRESS and for OIT’s Computational Science and Engineering group will be moving into adjacent offices in Lewis Library. This consolidation will enable more effective collaboration with faculty. The facilities will also include a 12-seat conference room fitted with A/V equipment to enable multi-point video conferencing and space for a new Visualization Laboratory.