Didn’t notice Purdue’s main data center moving? That was the plan

You think moving is a hassle? You’re right. Now try this.

Move 1,267 computers (2,309 including virtual machines) and related devices, like networking equipment, that are running more than 300 systems relied on all day every day by a medium-sized city’s worth of people. Oh, and make this move while disrupting those people to the least extent possible, preferably not at all.

Little wonder if the movers from ITaP, who did just that, breathed a sigh of relief when they finished moving Purdue’s main central data center from Freehafer Hall. The data center, which houses University business and educational systems used across campus, had to vacate the premises because Freehafer is set for demolition as part of the State Street Redevelopment Project.

Plans for moving the data center to other campus locations began nearly two years ago and the move itself ran from Dec. 7, 2015, when the first items got on their way, to around the end of March this year, when a major piece of equipment that routes the traffic on Purdue’s network was relocated.

Alone, the migration of the main storage system housing Purdue Career Account space for everyone on campus involved 1.4 petabytes of data and 1.6 billion files used by tens of thousands of faculty, students and staff.

“Relocating the University’s primary data center was a huge undertaking, one of the largest physical IT projects at Purdue ever,” says ITaP’s Dan Schumacher, interim executive director, IT Infrastructure Services. “Our goal was to minimize the impact and communicate all service outages beforehand to the West Lafayette and regional campuses.”

Robert Evans, director of the Office of Technology for the College of Education, says the move was seamless from his perspective.

“I wish I had more to say, but the transition was so well done that there is not much to mention,” Evans says. “I do greatly appreciate all the work that I know went into this on the back end, even though general users may be unaware of the planning and work that went into the migration.”

Ed Stanisz, systems manager for Agriculture Information Technology in the College of Agriculture, says the coordination between ITaP and the academic units was excellent.

“Lots of pre-planning went a long way towards an easy transition,” Stanisz says. “Very little, if any, impact for our customers.”

Gerry McCartney, Purdue vice president for information technology and chief information officer, says the credit goes to the ITaP staff who planned, led and executed the work.

“Because of their skill and professionalism a difficult task, one with ample risk for serious disruption, was made invisible,” McCartney says.

About 90 staff members served in the core groups behind the move. They worked with many others, as well as staff from campus academic IT units, during the process, says ITaP’s Jim Slopsema, the move’s project manager.

In addition to the 1,267 physical pieces of equipment, they moved or decommissioned 1,042 “virtual machines.” Those software-based machines within a machine could be transferred over the Purdue network to servers set up elsewhere, generally without missing a beat.

Still, hundreds of machines had to be moved physically from Freehafer and reinstalled in other locations. That included some major storage systems, among them the system holding Purdue Career Account data and also serving as departmental storage, which took months to migrate, as well as large collections of research data, more than 2 petabytes and 230 million files from 350 research groups in one case. It also involved moving three of Purdue’s research supercomputers from one data center location to another on campus to make room for the Freehafer systems.

ITaP worked with the campus units to move all this at times convenient for users, and that minimized down time. As much as possible, work was done during regularly scheduled maintenance windows, on weekends and evenings. High-demand periods during the school year were avoided.

Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8167 (office), 765-426-8545 (mobile), gkline@purdue.edu

Last updated: April 13, 2017

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