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Two Cultures Drive Data Center Development in Higher Education

September 7, 2010

Two Cultures Drive Data Center Development in Higher Education.

Data center managers in colleges and universities are struggling to keep costs under control while meeting ever-growing demands for computing resources.
But higher-education data center managers face a unique challenge as well: They must balance the competing demands of two vastly different sets of users – university researchers, who push the limits of the computing infrastructure, and university administrators, who require reliable and predictable performance.

Data Center Challenges in Higher Education

University researchers, who may be pursuing such complex topics as bioinformatics, atmospheric modeling, or genetic algorithms, put heavy demands on computing infrastructures.

“On the research side, they’ll consume all the cycles you can give them,” says Gerry McCartney, Vice President for IT, CIO and Olga Oesterle England Professor of Information Technology at Purdue University, one of the leading research institutions in the United States, with 40,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff.

Researchers’ demands for computing power may be unpredictable – varying by the availability of research grants or new research directions dictated by experimental results, for example – but they tend to be flexible about availability. Their focus is raw power.

“Researchers understand that we’re really pushing our capabilities to meet their demands, and they know that when you’re on the cutting edge, sometimes you’re going to bleed a little,” says Derek Masseth, Senior Director, Infrastructure Services at the University of Arizona, a leading U.S. public research university with 38,000 students and over 14,000 staff.

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