In 2009, the West Des Moines Community Schools' data center faced increasingly serious power and cooling problems. "Our data center was designed in the early 1990s, before anyone had a concept of what a data center should be," says Scott Crothers, network engineer for the Iowa school district.
Some 75 physical and virtual servers were protected by scores of individual uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) of varying capacity. Power was often insufficient, and a small cooling unit couldn't keep up with expansion. "The room temperature often rose to 95 degrees," Crothers says.
The moment of truth came when Crothers overloaded a circuit while installing a new server and blew out two other servers in the rack. A few days later, he came to work to find a melted extension cord.
Like West Des Moines Community Schools, school districts that have equipped classrooms and students with mobile devices, wireless access, interactive whiteboards and other emerging technologies may be pushing data centers to their limits.
"Many district data centers were never designed for today's density level, with more and more applications, virtual servers, blades, storage and routers stuffed into a single rack," says Darin Stahl, principal consulting analyst for Info-Tech Research Group. "Power and cooling have become some of the biggest issues they face."