After data center fire, campus officials plan out responses to technical emergencies

Audrey McNamara/Staff

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Campus information technology officials are responding to the recent power outage — which temporarily shut down campus websites and online services, and will likely cost the campus thousands of dollars — by planning more effective ways to respond to technical emergencies.

At a meeting held Monday, the campus officials discussed potential improvements to the Warren Hall Data Center’s notification systems, emergency response time and communications process. According to Lyle Nevels, assistant vice chancellor for information technology, the meeting acted as both a routine follow-up for new systems and projects as well as an opportunity to address emergency procedure flaws.

According to two campuswide emails sent on behalf of the technology department, a small fire caused an automatic suppression system to turn off power in the data center over the weekend, rendering sites such as bCourses and CalNet temporarily unavailable to students — some until Sunday afternoon.

Nevels noted that though the data center is still exploring the root causes of the fire, the fire was an anomaly caused by a single overheated server.

“These types of devices are meant to handle the load which is placed upon them, and it’s very, very rare and uncommon for a server such as that, or other types of hardware, to get so hot,” Nevels said.

According to Nevels, estimated damage costs will range from $5,000 to $10,000 to replace the single server.

Nevels added that the campus has dealt with similar situations before, including an incident in which room overheating forced the data center to shut down electrical systems. In response, the data center considered similar improvements to its communication with involved parties and notification of IT resources.

Nevels believes that the data center has handled the current situation well by resolving the incident within a few days and maintaining close scrutiny of potential abnormalities.

“Regardless of whether it’s big or small, we take this kind of situation very seriously,” Nevels said.

Contact Kimberly Nielsen at [email protected].