McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University
McCormick Shared Cluster Computing Room
The McCormick School of Engineering has created a space specifically designed as a Shared Computer Cluster Room to support faculty research. The intent of the room is to house a number of rack-mounted, high-powered computers that are concentrated within a small footprint. These clusters offer a large amount of computing power at a reasonable price, yet do not require a large amount of space. A rack is typically 2 feet x 4 feet and just under 80 inches tall, and typically holds up to 32 computers.
We have renovated Tech LG-55 to accommodate up to 18 racks of computers and have adequate cooling and UPS power for the racks. Since multiple departments will use this room, cameras and room access controls will help maintain the necessary security for this environment.
Space Management and Operation
The McCormick Director of Information Resources and his designated staff will oversee operation and maintenance of research cluster computers and associated services. Protocol for use of the space has been approved by the McCormick Space Committee and the dean has delegated authority for routine allocation of rack space and/or work area within the room to the McCormick Faculty Computing Committee.
To assist in the allocation and review process, we will ask faculty to complete an application requesting rack space. The McCormick Computing Committee must review and approve the application. Once the Computing Committee approves a request for space, the principal investigator (PI) must ensure systems are installed within 60 days of approval, or the space may be reallocated to a different group.
The following things may take place only after an application has been approved by the the McCormick Computing Committee:
- Equipment may be installed into LG55. No equipment may be placed in LG55 before approval has been granted.
- Keycard access will granted. Keycard access will not be granted before an application has been approved.
- Power modules (see "Set up costs" below) will be ordered. Orders cannot be placed until an application has been approved.
During an initial equipment move-in, an appropriate representative from McCormick IT must be present to assist with equipment placement, power installation, network configuration, and other setup tasks.
The McCormick Computing Committee will review the status of projects within the space to evaluate their viability respective of the assigned term. Upon completion of a project's assigned term, the Computing Committee will evaluate requests for extension in relation to the available space and other PIs' projects or clusters awaiting space. Space will be allocated generally on a three-year renewable term or for the term of the sponsored funding if longer than three years. Space allocation will normally be renewable at the discretion of the Computing Committee. We expect PI's to relinquish space upon project completion, when equipment becomes obsolete, or when project funding is exhausted. In the event of competing demands for rack space, the Computing Committee will prioritize requests and make a recommended allocation to the Space and Resource Evaluation Committee and the dean for final adjudication. Space assignment criteria will be contingent upon a range of factors such as availability of alternate departmental space, relevancy of the research to the department and school's key intellectual domains, and the level of sponsored funding.
Per an agreement between McCormick IT and Facilities Management, a clear pathway must exist from LG55's main door to the mechanical space entryway (double-doors located on the North wall, next to the large AC unit). This pathway exists to provide Facilities Management a way of moving large equipment into the mechanical space, and must be at least 6 feet (1.5 meters) in width. No equipment is to be stored in this pathway.
Room Specifications and Services Provided
The following are the specifications for occupants of the space:
- Each computing cluster will occupy an approximately 25" x 40" plot of floor space for a single rack. This is an approximate measure, as there is some variation in rack dimensions. Racks that significantly exceed these dimensions, or are too large to fit through the doorways (approximately 80") cannot be used. The McCormick IT team can provide advice and suggestions on ordering racks.
- Electrical power for the rack will be supplied by a dedicated uninterrupted power supply (UPS) for the entire space. Battery run-time on the UPS is approximately 15 minutes. Software for Unix-like systems to assist with system shutdown in the case of power failure is available.
- The ambient room temperature will be kept below 75°
- The data center will permit access only to faculty assigned space in LG55 and their designees. Assigned faculty will be accountable for designee conduct in the space. Security cameras will monitor the facility and all entry into the room will be authorized and tracked by a security system.
- A single 100Mbit network connection and static IP address will be provided for each rack. Additional IP addresses, bandwidth, and network drops can be accommodated, but must be requested as an incremental service. Additional connections are subject to bandwidth limitations if they adversely affect other connections. The current bandwidth limitation on data transmission in and out of the space is 1 gigabit per second.
- Tenants will have access to a workstation and keyboard/monitor located in the room for system setup and basic troubleshooting. Major repair work should be done elsewhere.
- Basic system monitoring data can be provided on Unix systems. Email notification of abnormal behavior is also available.
- McCormick IT can be contracted for "on-call" support problems over and above the basic services provided for in LG55 at a fee.
- The responsibility for hardware replacement and repairs must be handled by the groups using the space unless other arrangements are made.
- Eating, drinking, smoking or bringing other liquids into the room are not permitted.
- This room is designed for computational clusters in a secure, limited access, environment. Destructive testing, experimentation with computer viruses or other malicious software, installations that require constant physical access to hardware (either for operation, maintenance, or repair), or other activities that are may compromise the physical or electronic security of the room are not permitted.
- All operations or research involving computers supported by this facility must be lawful and in accordance with Northwestern University computer usage policies.
- Violations of the above may result in revoked access for individuals, loss of network access and/or restrictions, or if the severity warrants, loss of the use of the room as determined by the McCormick Computing Committee.
- All users of the room must be aware that security cameras are monitoring all activities in the room.
Schedule of fees for service
Initial facility renovation costs will be borne by McCormick. Equipment installation, setup, maintenance, and depreciation charges, as well as various service charges are in accordance with university policy for direct expenses to sponsored accounts and will be managed through a recharge account as indicated below:
Set up costs:
Once the renovation is complete, setup fees only require the purchase of plug-in modules for the UPS power strip. With shipping and installation, the charge is between $325 and $450 per module depending on the module type. Typical clusters require one to two such modules, depending on the type of plugs and receptacles required. Most common plugs are available, ranging from 5-15P to L6-30. Modules typically take 4 weeks to arrive, after the order has been placed.
Annual maintenance fee:
There is an annual fee of $1,000 per rack per fiscal year associated with using LG55. This fee is to help cover recurring costs associated with running the data center, including (but not limited to): UPS battery replacement and service contracts, AC system maintenance, room maintenance and repair, and network infrastructure upgrades and equipment. Billing takes place in September and partial years are pro-rated monthly. Unless specified in writing, the service agreement will automatically renew at the end of each fiscal year (31 August of each calendar year). We project stability of fees for several years from facility opening in Fall 2003, however, if rising costs necessitate a price increase, such increase will not take effect until the following fiscal year. We will endeavor to provide at least 6 months' lead time for any fee change.
Power shut-down notice
There will be at least one power outage each year due to maintenance on the building-wide power and HVAC systems by Facilities Management. This typically happens over Labor Day Weekend, and lasts for several hours. The room UPS system will not be able to provide power to the room during outages of this duration. Notice will be sent to all affected groups once McCormick receives official notice.
- McCormick Director of Information Resources:
Alan Wolff: (1-4443)
- McCormick UNIX/Linux and Research Cluster Support:
Mike Ladd: (7-0264)
McCormick Computing Committee Members:
- Chair- Michael Peshkin (ME)
- Igal Szleifer (BME)
- Agellos Katsagellos (EECS)
- David Chopp (ESAM)
- Luis Amaral (ChBE)
- Chris Wolverton (MSE)
- Jose Andrade (CEE)
- Robert Fourer (IEMS)
McCormick IT Contents
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
Extension 7-3713 on campus