The Stack Archive

Air conditioning leak takes down university data centre

Thu 30 Jul 2015


Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario saw its main data centre taken offline after an air conditioning leak activated the fire suppression system.

The university’s information systems, including email, finance and HR software, were unable to operate as normal between the hours of 11:30am on Sunday and 07:00am on Monday morning.

The institution’s learning management system was also affected as well as course registration which was scheduled to begin early that day. The University was forced to delay registration slightly, getting the system running again for enrolling students by midnight.

According to Bo Wandschneider, head of information technology services at Queen’s, the outage was caused by a leaking air conditioning unit which was spraying compressor oil in a fine mist over the data centre equipment. Resembling smoke, the fire suppression system was triggered into action removing all of the oxygen from the facility.

The system response damaged all of the data centre fire detection sensors, which will need to be fully replaced.

Although no fire took place at the scene, Kingston fire services and Queen’s Environmental Health and Safety department were called to the centre to establish that it was safe for the university staff to return to the building.

Wandschneider added that his team were able to enter the data centre – a basement below the university’s Dupuis Hall – within half an hour and worked through to 02:00am on Monday to try and restore the services.

“Everything went down and had to be brought back up again […] It’s our largest data centre, our production data centre,” said Wandschneider.

As universities look into improving data management and storage options many institutions are joining forces to pool resources. Earlier this month two Maryland universities, John Hopkins and University of Maryland, began work on a 3,700 sq.ft facility to house data storage and a computer centre to create more capacity for advanced university research.

The centre will be equipped with 19,000 processors and 17,000 petabytes of storage. Information will be transferred to the university campuses across a fibre optic network.


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