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The IT Infrastructure Behind OSTI’s Mission

by Jeff Given on Fri, December 04, 2015

OSTI's new data center enclosure

OSTI's new data center enclosure

For the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) to fulfill our mission to “advance science and sustain technological creativity by making R&D findings available and useful to Department of Energy researchers and the public,” it’s important to have an information technology (IT) infrastructure up to the task of performing 40 million human transactions per year, which requires 24/7/365 availability.  At OSTI, we take pride in delivering high-availability systems, which translates to consistently reliable web-based services available at full capacity to our end users.  We work to minimize any downtime in the availability of our vast electronic scientific collections, but in case you have ever experienced that rare occasion when a product wasn’t available, we would like to explain what happens “behind the curtain” during scheduled maintenance windows. 

OSTI’s web products, applications, catalogue of collections, and the associated cyber infrastructure that supports them are a complex amalgamation of hardware devices and big data processing/storage technologies that have been tuned to provide customers the data they need while keeping the Department’s R&D information secure and available.  Much of this infrastructure is contained in our data center, a 3,500 square- foot room that has been purposely built to support IT and is designed to consider airflow (hardware doesn’t like being hot), electrical requirements, and even physical security access to the devices.  Remember the scene from Mission Impossible where Ethan Hunt is lowered down into a room from the roof filled with servers and racks of equipment?  That’s a data center, and it’s where OSTI’s Preservation and Technology team has recently been performing maintenance. 

As OSTI’s scientific collections have grown and evolved, new hardware and software have been purchased to match that growth.  All of these devices have made their way to the data center, where they were added to already full racks of lights, plugs, and blinking displays.  As components were continually added, the physical overhead that was required to maintain them also grew.  This growth, over time, surpassed the original design parameters of the supporting infrastructure, including our old cooling hardware and even our physical layout, rendering it no longer optimal to support the new hardware.  Accordingly, we set about to shrink our footprint and better position OSTI for continued growth.

So what’s the end result of all this movement, and how will it support OSTI’s performance of our mission?  OSTI was able to significantly shrink and reconfigure the floor space needed for IT hardware; the major focus of this move was to align with DOE sustainability goals and related energy efficiency requirements and to demonstrate our commitment to the most efficient use of energy resources to support our mission. 

In total, we moved 60 assets and condensed them into an 11-foot by 11-foot custom-designed and cooled enclosure.  As you can see from the picture above, our new data center footprint is compact and efficient – and still leaves us room for a future growth factor of almost 30%.  A final major benefit of the move was a more efficient cooling system that is focused strictly on cooling the enclosure.  The plastic roof and doors in the picture keep the cool air inside, and the equipment fans draw it over the internal components to keep all of OSTI’s major equipment cool.

The consolidation into this new enclosure was accomplished within a 14-hour window (during non-peak hours) when OSTI operated in a state where some services were not available. We hope that you didn’t even notice, but we appreciate your patience during this outage.  We are pleased that OSTI and the users we serve are now able to enjoy the benefits that the move provided.

Jeffrey S. Given is OSTI Assistant Director for Preservation and Technology and Chief Technology Officer.

Page last updated on 2017-09-08 10:40

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Jeff Given
Assistant Director - OSTI Information Systems

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