People - Written by on October 18, 2016

OLCF Contributes to ORNL–UT Data Center Boot Camp

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OLCF Director of Science Jack Wells was one of the many OLCF-affiliated instructors at the ORNL–UT Data Center Boot Camp. Wells discussed how reliability plays an important role in helping ORNL reach strategic objectives.

OLCF Director of Science Jack Wells was one of the many OLCF-affiliated instructors at the ORNL–UT Data Center Boot Camp. Wells discussed how reliability plays an important role in helping ORNL reach strategic objectives.

Participants learn about maintaining safe, energy-efficient computing infrastructure

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosted a boot camp in conjunction with the University of Tennessee’s (UT’s) Reliability and Maintainability Center (RMC) within the College of Engineering. This partnership originated about 4 years ago when the RMC sent consultants and interns to ORNL in support of the data center infrastructure team.

Inspired by a similar UT course, the event catered to a group of 10 individuals—some professionals from a number of different organizations and some students representing various universities. Jim Serafin, complex facility manager from ORNL’s Facilities and Operations Directorate, explained that the boot camp instructors—staff members from both ORNL and UT-RMC—led discussions on topics related to data center management and maintenance. He also clarified the impetus for this unique course, which took place in August.

“One was the learning opportunity for those who wanted to understand how reliability best practices apply to a data center environment,” he said. This knowledge is critical because business decisions and power usage have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.

The event focused on reliability best practices and applications not only for general manufacturing and industry but also for computing and data center environments. Beyond these themes the RMC boot camp also covered mechanical and electrical systems designs, allowing participants to study challenges within these interconnected fields and brainstorm creative solutions. For example, data center experts must design computing systems that do not fail under adverse conditions such as power outages.

Throughout the 3 days of programming, instructors taught sessions concerning data centers and the facility infrastructure necessary to ensure equipment works properly. Experts from other institutions provided insights and advice as well. During his segment Serafin explored facilities operations best practices.

“The best way to get reliability is through operational excellence, and that’s investing in your people and your processes,” he said. “We focus on safety; we focus on quality; we communicate with IT. We take configuration management very seriously.”

Stephen McNally, operations manager for the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility located at ORNL, gave a presentation on the importance of overall strategy. McNally stated, “While the class was small in number, the discussions were great as participants ranged from highly experienced data center professionals to those new to the industry. The small size of the class benefitted everyone involved because it made for a much more open environment that welcomed questions and comments.” McNally went on to say, “The OLCF is grateful to participate and lead these types of events as they are critical to furthering a growing data center management field and workforce.”

According to instructors the inaugural class was highly engaged and invested in the material.

“These students were genuinely interested in this field, and they asked a lot of questions,” Serafin said.

The next boot camp will most likely take place within the next 2 years to grow the partnership between ORNL and UT-RMC and help industry develop infrastructure solutions for current and future data centers.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.