Tour of Institute Hall

Most of you probably know Institute Hall as the building that sells crepes and has Freshens smoothies, however, you probably didn’t know that it also houses the second largest data center on campus which stores the data of all of the colleges at RIT.

Our team recently went on a tour of the data center to see how everything was set up and maintained.  We got to see how they keep air flow even and temperature controlled, as well as the crazy amounts of machinery needed to keep the data center room at an even 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is the data center?

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the original data center was located in Ross Hall before moving over to Institute Hall. Matt Campbell, Sr. Infrastructure Engineer for ITS, explained during the tour that the Ross Hall data center wasn’t completely done away with. A decision was made to shrink the old data center and move the extra servers to Institute Hall.  The original data center was becoming over-burdened, and if it went down, many RIT services went down with it.  The Institute Hall data center helps because it focuses on redundancy.

Before the tour I wasn’t quite sure what the purpose of the Institute Hall data center was but I quickly learned that it provides RIT facilities with high speed networking, computer racks and continuous power supply, among many other services. Many software applications such as MyCourses and SIS are dependent on the data center, so it’s part of your everyday internet needs at RIT.

Currently the racks in the data center are empty but within a few weeks the College of Engineering, Wallace Center, Golisano and many others will begin putting their servers into designated racks, which, by the way, will only unlock if you have proper card access.

Free air and other cool features

In a mission to develop a sustainable data center, those working closely on the project looked to other data centers around the country for inspiration. Steve Bertino, Director of ITS Operations described the thought process behind the center.

“We took a look at Syracuse University’s green data center and toured the Yahoo Data Centers in Lockport, NY. Those data centers were our inspiration in developing this new data center.”

The feature that stood out to me the most was the fact that data center relies on “free air cooling” to make sure that there is an even airflow in the space. Anyone with a gaming desktop knows:  computers get incredibly hot.  Typically though, the internal components do need to be cooled more so than the hot air needs to be recycled.  The data center follows a similar train of thought.  Until the air in the room reaches a certain pressure (which is related to the temperature), the air is simply recycled and blown across the servers.  This saves energy because cooling and dehumidifying outside air can be costly.

Additionally, the heat created in the data center will be used during the winter to heat Institute Hall. At max load, the building’s heating system does not even need to come online because the data center just normally gets that hot.

If you want a guided tour of the facility, ITS has an online video that shows you all of the features of the new data center. Just follow this link:

RIT Behind the Bricks is a blog run by a social media team in Finance & Administration. We are bringing the latest and greatest aspects of RIT right to your Tumblr feed every Tuesday during the summer!


Written by: Bianca Meyers

Tagged: Bianca Meyers, Data Center, features, freshens, green, institute hall, Matt Campbell, mycourses, RIT, Steve Bertino