Awesome in Austin

Oracle’s Austin, Texas, facility wins our New Data Center Award for grid use and more.

One of Oracle’s crown jewels — a state-of-the-art data center in Austin, Texas — recently earned recognition as Data Center of the Year in an award program cosponsored by AFCOM, a group of data center professionals, and Network World. And no wonder. The 3-year-old facility houses an impressive array of new data center technologies, protected by James Bond-like security systems. The Austin data center, which originated as part of a worldwide effort to consolidate internal IT infrastructure and shave operational expenses, has become the heart of Oracle’s On Demand software-as-a-service outsourcing initiative. The data center also supports a variety of internal business applications. Signature Series Executive Editor Julie Bort recently spoke with David Thompson, CIO of global IT, and Mitchell McGovern, vice president of global data center operations, to discuss the data center.

Why did Oracle build the Austin data center?

Thompson: We spent three years in a dramatic process of reducing the amount of infrastructure we had supporting our corporation and reducing our data centers around the world to [one] primary data center, which is the Austin location.

McGovern: The IT budget in 1999 was in excess of $500 million and our IT budget today is less than half of that. A large portion of those costs-savings is directly related to the global consolidation that we have accomplished.

What makes this data center unique?

McGovern: We have 3 petabytes of disk [storage capacity]. We are the largest Dell/Linux installation and the largest Network Appliance installation on the planet, under one roof.

Oracle’s marketing message is all about grid these days. What role does grid play at this data center?

McGovern: There are multiple lines of business that utilize grid technology. We have a grid for our server technologies division. There is a mass of 5,000 servers, where developers around the world can take a slice of that computing power, do their eight to10 hours of coding a day, then release that computing resource back into the grid to be utilized by another developer somewhere else in the world. Similar to that, we have an education grid for Oracle education training. They take a slice of the computing resource here in our education grid, teach their class, then release that computing resource back into the grid for the next class to take place somewhere else in the world. A grid also supports our application demo systems.

Thompson: So we have four grids. The development grid is used for development, but it is also to use our latest release of our technology internally. Then when we have proven it, we roll it out into the education, demo environments and the on-demand grids.

In what ways does the data center support Oracle’s extended enterprise?

Thompson: Our customer data, which is one of our most important assets, is opened to our customers via our e-business portal, and that’s housed in Austin. We also have a supplier portal hosted at our Austin data center. We have relationships with Cisco, [for] VoIP technology. We are housing our call manager in Austin, and Cisco provides support and . . . has an interface to us in our Austin data center.

What security do you employ at the facility?

McGovern: Biometrics — hand geometry as well as retina scanning — [is used in] a dual-biometric entry in a ‘man trap.’ Also, we use closed-circuit television systems of the entire interior and exterior of the facility, all digital-video archived. We also have anti-passback card readers, and the glass is protected by blast-guard window film. The physical perimeter fence is vehicle-proof because it has two feet of concrete and then six feet of wrought iron on top of that. In the interior, we have photoelectric beams, so should someone decide to scale the fence, it sets off alarms for the manned guards that are 24/7 responsive. We quite often do internal penetration tests and test for the responsiveness of guards. We do seven-point employee background checks, and we check packages for bombs with X-rays. And we check all persons coming into the facility.

Oracle’s data center stats

— The 130,000-square-foot Austin data center hosts the world’s largest Network Appliance and Dell/Linux installations under one roof at 12,000 servers and 3 petabytes of storage capacity. Oracle primarily uses two- and four-processor Dell PowerEdge servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS v. 2.1 and 3.

— About 20 percent of Oracle’s total IT population work for or with the Austin data center.

— 25 percent of the site’s power comes from green sources, primarily a wind farm in Texas, earning it designation as an Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partner and Austin Energy’s GreenChoice member.

— In its IT overhaul, Oracle merged 40 data centers into this site.

— The site averages 104 watts of electrical output per square foot of the raised floor, with some sections supporting 170 watts per square foot.

— Of the 12,000 servers at the Austin data center, 2,000 are used for Oracle’s On Demand services.

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