NC State moves campus data centers off-site
We were nearing the end of life on power and cooling systems in each of our data centers. We realized that DIT and MCNC had space available for a similar ongoing cost but no upfront costs.
Assistant vice chancellor for Communication Technologies
Almost seven years ago, the Office of Information Technology’s leadership entertained what some considered a crazy idea to move its aging primary data centers off-site.
“It was only crazy because it hadn’t been done,” said Greg Sparks, assistant vice chancellor for Communication Technologies. “In 2016, it was a novel idea for a major Research 1 university not to have an on-premise data center.”
In the spring of 2023, OIT officially moved Data Center 2 (DC2) — the last of the university’s primary data centers — to the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (DIT)’s Eastern Data Center (EDC) and MCNC, saving the university about $20 million in one-time refresh costs for power and mechanical systems.
“We were nearing the end of life on power and cooling systems in each of our data centers,” said Sparks. “We realized that DIT and MCNC had space available for a similar ongoing cost but no upfront costs. We didn’t want to have to spend all of that money.”
“Over a four-year period, we moved two on-campus data centers to colocation sites,” he added.
In August 2020, the university moved Data Center 1 (DC1) to the EDC and eight months later began plans to relocate DC2 in April 2021.
Data Center 2
According to Sparks, there was some apprehension about the DC2 move in 2021, but it would turn out to be a nonissue. “We were able to take lessons learned from the DC1 migration and apply them,” he said.
Project Manager Dan Grigg said the DC2 move was very similar to the DC1 move. Grigg said 918 virtual machines in DC2 were either decommissioned or migrated to virtual machine farms in the EDC and MCNC between July and December 2022. In addition, 1,545 physical devices were moved or decommissioned between July 2022 and April 2023.
“We were plagued by COVID-related supply chain issues, which set our project schedule back, but IT teams in OIT and across campus worked together like a finely tuned machine to process through the moves and decommission as quickly as possible while minimizing the impact to our end users,” Grigg added.
According to Sparks, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences was the first college to move its equipment to the new colocation sites; several colleges have already taken advantage of the new facilities and others are in progress.
“The colo partners have enough space to house their equipment,” he said. And with the move to the two colocation sites, Sparks said, the university has additional floor space to accommodate more equipment from campus entities.