The Vatican Apostolic Library – Keeping the past alive with modern data centre technology
Tue 20 Nov 2018 | Michael Akinla
Founded in 1451 by Nicholas V, the Vatican Apostolic Library preserves and displays rare manuscripts from as early as the third century AD. The Vatican Apostolic Library holds pivotal cultural documents that include letters from important historical figures; drawings and notes by artists and scientists such as Michelangelo and Galileo; and treaties from all eras, in all fields of learning, from all parts of the world.
Improving Reliability and Enhancing Operational Efficiency
The Vatican Apostolic Library implemented an integrated data centre solution to create a robust and highly available network infrastructure to support the conservation of its literary treasures.
The manuscripts in the Vatican Apostolic Library are extremely delicate and sensitive to light, humidity, and temperature. Handling the material presents significant risk of damage or even destruction to the document. To guarantee the preservation of its documents, the Vatican Apostolic Library has begun an extensive manuscript digitisation project.
The purpose of the data centre project was to provide the technology and functionality needed to support the future digital and physical storage of the valued manuscripts, on site at The Vatican. To accomplish this goal, the existing data centre needed to be completely dismantled and the site equipped with a more efficient infrastructure capable of delivering the high-performance response times to its users. The new data centre required a highly available, secure network infrastructure to support the massive data transfer effort and to provide the capability to monitor and capture real-time data across the physical environment.
This created a complex project with two key design considerations. The first is the transition of over 80,000 historical manuscripts, held in the Vatican Apostolic Library, to a high quality digital format. This aspect has been in process since 2012. The second phase involved implementing the upgraded network infrastructure that would enable effective optimisation of data center cooling and power continuity, within the confines of a historically significant quarter of the Vatican.
According to Luciano Ammenti, IT Director, Vatican Apostolic Library, “We needed a solution with a tangible contribution to technology and a solution provider with specialised knowledge to allow the Vatican Apostolic Library to easily extend its services to patrons well into the future.”
The Vatican Apostolic Library needed the capability to monitor and manage its new data centre, and support the demand for increased power and capacity. The existing tools were inadequate and the new data centre needed to address inefficiencies surrounding power monitoring, energy management, capacity, and environmental conditions, while offering the latest technology to the Library’s users. This would allow the Vatican Apostolic Library to address current needs and prepare for future growth as the digitisation project progressed. In addition, the data centre enhancements would support the Vatican Apostolic Library’s commitment to create a setting which allows readers to easily access the manuscripts while avoiding further degradation of the original materials.
After validating the robust performance of the connectivity previously installed at the main data center, located in a nearby site, the Vatican Apostolic Library again selected the company to fulfill its network infrastructure requirements. This included implementing the integrated physical infrastructure, hardware and software, and the hot aisle containment system for the new site within the historical home of the Vatican Apostolic Library. According to Mr. Ammenti, “The consultative approach of the team along with partners, allowed us to resolve our physical infrastructure challenges with credibility and reliability.” The implementation of the company’s smart sealed cabinet solutions allows the Vatican Apostolic Library to monitor and process real-time data, and access current and historical views of power and temperature, providing enhanced functionality and visibility across its entire physical infrastructure.
The solution addresses the Library’s power and energy usage challenges, capacity constraints, environmental issues, patch field connectivity, and security and access control requirements to provide the tools and information needed to make intelligent decisions for its data operations. The smart solution gateways simplify the Vatican Apostolic Library’s network architecture by processing and consolidating the monitoring, management, and control of gateway-enabled rack power distribution units (PDUs) and environmental sensors through a single IP address, reducing the need for separate IP ports. This information can then be displayed via internal firmware or utilised by the company’s monitoring and analysis software platform for real-time monitoring and display, management, and automated documentation of operational metrics. This provides predictability in the environment allowing for proactive maintenance processes to be implemented. To enhance data centre security, the gateways support access control card readers on cabinets and manage encrypted access data for smart card technologies and other digital readers.
The upgraded network infrastructure includes eight S-Type server cabinets, thermally compartmentalised using a Hot Aisle Containment (HAC) system for energy efficiency, optimised airflow distribution, and improved thermal performance across the data centre. The cabinets consist of components that maintain hot/cold air separation to improve cooling efficiency by 40% when compared to the previous cooling system, which significantly lowers cooling expenses for the Vatican Apostolic Library.
To improve cable management while ensuring system performance, durability, and reliability within the Vatican Apostolic Library’s data center solution, high capacity horizontal cable managers and patch-links horizontal cable managers were deployed. The solution was completed with Panduit copper and fibre systems for connectivity within the cabinets. Together, the OM3 fibre optic transport system (MPO interconnects, angled patch panels, and pre-terminated fibre cassettes) and Category 6A 10 Gb copper system provide reliable network performance and enable application availability while exceeding the latest industry standards. The consistent performance and reliability accommodate the Vatican Apostolic Library’s current and predicted network performance needs.
“The use of Panduit technology has provided us with an essential contribution to our data centre in terms of efficiency, infrastructure management, and data availability, creating balance between cost and performance,” said Mr. Ammenti. The robust and innovative architecture of the integrated data centre solution provided the Vatican Apostolic Library with the capability to support the vast amount of data generated by the digitisation project, ensuring high reliability and elevated transmission speed. The deployment time for the installation was 30% less than deployment time offered by alternate solutions, which provided added value for the overall project. Since the completion of the project, visiting users to the Vatican Apostolic Library are surprised by the sophistication of the implemented solution and the capabilities that it now provides.