Datacentres get religion

Would you house a data entre in a diamond mine or an old chapel? These organisations did, with great success.

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Are you looking for a new datacentre? One that promises an abundant supply of energy and offers the latest in cooling technology?

You might want to take a gander at what Boston College (BC) is doing with its new datacentre. Not only does it provide the latest amenities, but it boasts its very own patron saint watching over the racks of blades, storage devices and power gear.

The centre, which moved to the empty St. Clement's chapel last year, features 16 stained-glass windows, one of which depicts St. Isidore (aka. San Ysidro). Isidore of Seville was credited with creating the first encyclopaedia, and the Vatican recently gave him purview over the World Wide Web. Now Isidore looks down at BC's glass-enclosed control centre from his stained-glass perch.

The chapel, on BC's Brighton campus, has a space advantage over the library. The library's fifth-floor datacentre was a non-expandable 3,000 square feet. In comparison, St. Clement's Hall is about 4,500 square feet – enough space to add a backup generator.

In densely populated areas, IT pros must often make a hard choice between retrofitting existing sites or building a new one where land is at a premium and construction costs are high. In this case, BC's CIO found in the chapel exactly what she needed: A big chunk of space, unused and available.

"The space was so monumental, we had to take advantage of it," says Marian Moore, BC's vice president of information technology and CIO.

The challenge then was to retrofit the space for IT needs while respecting its aesthetics. To take best advantage of the chapel while preserving the windows, the architects designed a glass room – a box within the box of the chapel – for the operator control room.

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