Summer 2013 move

This summer, the Computing Service is almost completely moving out to the Roger Needham Builtding on the West Cambridge site. This is partly because the University will be refurbishing the Arup Building and partly because the CS will be merging with MSID to form a unified University Information Services department.

The Arup building is named after the consulting engineers Ove Arup & Partners, who are responsible for a lot of brilliant stuff. Our building is not so great - you can see some pictures: one two three four. The bottom two floors of the building form a dark red brick box, containing the Zoology museum (which is chock-full of amazing animal skeletons), the Babbage Lecture Theatre (one of the largest in the University), and extensive Materials Science and Metallurgy workshops. Above this podium is a desolate open space around the top of the Babbage, with windows down into the Zoology Museum, and concrete stilts supporting the upper three floors. These contain labs and offices, and cantilever outwards in a way that makes it very hard to clean the windows. On either side of the building there are office towers, with lifts that don't reach the top floors, and stairs that (originally) didn't reach the bottom floors.

Materials Science and Metallurgy are also moving to West Cambridge, to a new building; since the end of the Easter Term they have been boxing everything up and moving out of their rooms in the Austin and Arup buildings. They have quite a lot of equipment to move.

The Arup building has contained the University's main computer rooms since about 1970. It housed Titan until 1973, a succession of IBM mainframes called Phoenix until 1995, a number of supercomputers, and our main networking hub. As well as being the core of the University's network and our JANET point-of-presence, it is a key site for EastERN (previously called EastNET) which provides connectivity to many universities and colleges in the region.

Our computer rooms are in the upper part of the building. In the basement was the old BT PABX, which was decommissioned some years ago to be replaced by a Cisco VOIP setup. The old PABX room is supposed to be unaffected by the refurbishment, so it has been refitted as a computer room, to house the EastERN point-of-presence, part of the phone system, and various other servers that need a presence in the city centre.

I went down there at lunch time on the 16th July to see the first set of Hermes servers being brought up in their new location. During the move we are keeping at least two copies of users' mail data online, the live copy and a hot spare; most of the time there will be three copies. By the end of July we will have copies in the Arup basement, the old Arup computer room, and the live copy at a commercial hosting provider in the north of the city. In August the old Arup copy will move to the Roger Needham building.

Here is half of one copy of the Hermes message store in the Arup basement.

The refurbished room looks relatively neat. Here's a row of UPSs and server racks.

The room is somewhat at risk of flooding, because it is below ground level and roughly on top of the King's Ditch, a mediaeval fortification / waterway / sewer. Hopefully the racks are raised above the floor enough to protect their contents...

The middle aisle.

The networking aisle with one of the aircon units. The racks on the left contain the EastERN pop, part of the phone system, and some other networking equipment.

The JANET PoP is moving to the Computer Lab building on the West Cambridge site when the JANET 6 upgrade happens in August. We expect to get a second redundant PoP in 2014 which will probably be in this room.

Cables entering the room.

The rest of the basement is much less friendly. Outside our computer room is a lot of very large and cluttered HVAC gear.

If you dodge around and under the pipes and ducts and climb some ladders, you can find the place where some of important cables enter the building. Behind me where I took this photo is a 10kV electrical substation.

There is a long-ish corridor containing ducts that you have to duck under.

On the way towards the computer room:

Looking back in the opposite direction:

The far end of the corridor near our usual exit:

Where we enter the basement is a large room containing more heavy equipment. I think this water handling gear is to do with the HPC room cooling.

And I think these red boxes are generators for the old computer room UPS.

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