"Securing IU's Information Technology Future"

Data Center Dedication
Data Center
November 5, 2009


Last week a deeply moving tribute was held for one of Indiana University’s greatest presidents: Myles Brand. His numerous outstanding contributions to the university and to higher education were recounted by many speakers. Among them was that he was one of the first university presidents in the nation to clearly see the emerging importance of information technology in higher education. He saw that it was set to move—at a dramatic pace, from the monastic seclusion of the “back office” to being a highly visible element of the “front office”.

He gave me the honor of leading the implementation of this vision when he appointed me the university’s first vice president for information technology in 1996. But the implementation of this vision was also due to the sustained efforts over many years of hundreds of other people in this room. I want to pay special tribute to some of the other early leaders of these efforts who worked on IU’s seminal IT Strategic Plan: the late Jon Barwise and Gerry Bernbom; Mike Dunn who chaired this effort, Chris Peebles, Norma Holland, and Russell Eberhart; with Dennis Gannon, Laurie Antolovic, and Karen Adams.

Myles understood that it was almost impossible in this day and age for a great university like IU not to have first rate IT services, facilities, and infrastructure. In his memorable and oft-quoted phrase, he wanted IU to be a leader in the “uses and applications of information technology—in absolute terms”.

We achieved most of this goal many years ago and the excellence of IT at IU is today widely attested to. Just a few examples emphatically underscore this point:

  • IU’s path-breaking enterprise license agreement with Microsoft in 1998;
  • the Internet2 Network Operations Center in 1998 and the commencement of the establishment of I-Light the same year;
  • the establishment of the Pervasive Technology Laboratories with a $30 million grant from the Lilly Endowment in 1999, which has since evolved into the Pervasive Technology Institute further funded by the Lilly Endowment with a $15 million grant;
  • the establishment in 2000 of the School of Informatics, the first new school at IU Bloomington in over twenty-five years;
  • and numerous firsts in supercomputing including the first university teraflop system, as well as national leadership in open source administrative systems due to Brad’s outstanding leadership.

But as IU’s capabilities in IT in education and research, and as a key component of the university’s management, exploded, the lack of adequate facilities to house IU’s core IT infrastructure became ever more egregious. In Bloomington, they were housed in flimsy old school buildings, and, in Indianapolis, in a variety of inadequate, inappropriate basement spaces. There was also little coordination concerning the development of this infrastructure.

On both major campuses, then, millions of dollars of critical infrastructure—and I use the word “critical” with care and accuracy—was vulnerable to even modest acts of nature or malicious acts of human beings. It takes but a minute to reflect on the consequences of a month at IU without IT. It would bring most of the activities of this institution to a complete and disastrous halt.

We began working on the solution of this critical problem, with the construction of the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex—the ICTC Building—on the IUPUI campus, which was dedicated in 2004, five years ago last month. Myles had championed the funding for this building through the Legislature for the 1997/99 budget biennium. This provided appropriate facilities for IT on the IUPUI campus.

We discussed a facility like this in UITS almost from the moment I got to Indiana University. The original plans had located it at Tenth and the Bypass, then it was moved to 7th street, then, opposite the Multidisciplinary Science Building II off Walnut Grove Road Avenue, and finally back to 10th and the Bypass. Finally in the 2005/07 budget biennium, funds were appropriated for this building for which so many of us had planned and advocated over the previous nearly ten years.

Today, with the dedication of the Indiana University Data Center, we complete this process. Finally the rest of IU’s core IT infrastructure including most of its major supercomputer systems, will be housed in appropriate facilities that will help ensure the continuity of essential and critical IT services for the university community in all but the most calamitous of circumstances.

This facility, combined with the machine room in the ICTC Building on the IUPUI campus, to which is connected through multiple fiber paths using the I-Light optical fiber network, will help ensure the continuity of essential and critical IT services for the university community. To give just once example, all data written on any device in this machine room is also written, at the same time, to a comparable device in the ICTC machine room in Indianapolis. Thus all data is replicated on both campuses, mitigating considerably the risk of this data being lost or destroyed.

The Fruits of Strategic Vision

In the decade that we have worked to reach this day, the quality and excellence of our IT infrastructure and facilities has been a base that has enabled IU faculty and staff to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in external support from agencies like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes for Health, and the Lilly Endowment, among others.

The Data Center that we are dedicating today will provide IU with a resource that will enable us to be even more successful in attracting such funding. Funding agencies now want to know that if they are going to fund large–scale IT infrastructure to support science and research across the nation, it is housed at the highest standards of reliability and safety.

The Data Center has already proven critical to enhancing our competitiveness and our national role in IT research. In just the last year, more than $14 million dollars of federal research funding have come to IU dependent upon our ability to house computing systems securely in this state–of–the–art facility. In particular, IU’s FutureGrid project—an experimental testbed that will define the future of grid and cloud technology—would not have been funded by the National Science Foundation were it not for this building.

The Data Center also serves the needs of the broader university community. For instance, it is home to e-mail systems, electronic student records, business data, library resources, and the Oncourse system, to name just a fraction of the systems required by so many academic and administrative units throughout the university. It protects the systems and data that enable the university to operate on a day–to–day basis, and it serves every IU campus across the state.

This facility will also serve as the hub of IU’s Research Park in this area. Next week, we dedicate the Innovation Center also located at Tenth and the Bypass, and in the next few months, we will break ground on the new Cyber Infrastructure Building nearby as well.

Special Thanks

That are dedicating this facility today, part of such a broad-ranging and complex plan to safeguard and properly house IU’s data and IT infrastructure, is testimony to the dedication of many groups and individuals. We are especially grateful for the support that the Indiana General Assembly has given us over the years. That includes generous support for the I-Light optical fiber network, which is so important to the redundancy and security of our systems and which serves the higher education community through the state.

I would also like to specially recognize Brad Wheeler, who took up the baton so superbly as Vice President for Information Technology and CIO when I moved on to other things.

I also want to recognize and thank a host of outstandingly talented people from University Information Technology Services, most of whom I worked with very closely over many years and who were intimately involved in what has been an enormously complicated undertaking. I ask them to stand as I mention their names, and please hold your applause until all are standing. These include: Laurie Antolovic, Don Brock Mark Bruhn, Doug Chambers, Dennis Cromwell, Matt Davey, Tom Davis, Garland Elmore, Eric Goy, Dave Jent, Matt Link, Mike Lucas, Rob Lowden, Dan Miller, Stacy Morrone, Craig Stewart, Barry Walsh, and Sue Workman Please join me in thanking our colleagues for their magnificent contributions to this project.

I would also like to thank our Trustees. At various times I showed Steve Ferguson, Pat Shoulders, Sue Talbot, Bill Cast and Tom Reilly around the old machine room—usually when there was a leaking roof or a major heating or cooling problem, and they almost instantly saw the scale of the risk and vulnerability that this presented to IU. When the time came for me to make the case to them for this building, they could not have been more supportive.

In addition, I would like to thank project manager Bob Cunningham of the University Architect’s Office and Frank Young, the lead architect, as well as Jeff Kaden, the University Engineer and Director of Engineering Services. Every building is a feat of engineering, but this building, in particular, required special skills and vision.

Finally, I would like to thank David King and Bob Bull from the SmithGroup for their efforts in helping us reach this day and for accepting graciously my pushing them constantly to design the sort of building IU needed. Of course, I could add many other names to this long list. Let me extend my gratitude to the hundreds of other people who have dedicated their time and expertise to this vitally important project.


By way of closing, I would like to take you back to an afternoon in late September, 2002. Just after 1:00 p.m., a tornado touched down nine miles northwest of Bloomington in Ellettsville, causing nearly $4 million in damage. Our old facility would not have survived the impact.

The facility we are dedicating today will do far more than survive the impact. It will protect and preserve vital university resources and will carry us one step closer to the digital future. It will ensure that the digital artifacts of Indiana University scholarship, research, and literary and artistic creations are carefully protected. And it will ensure that the computational tools that our scientists and researchers need to uncover the secrets of the formation of the universe, the mysteries of the processes of life, and the keys to new disease treatments are always available to serve Indiana University and our society for generations to come.