The University is opening a Modular Data Center in an effort to increase data capacity in a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly way on campus.

Andy Palms, executive director of communication systems and data centers for Information and Technology Services, said this “high-performance” site was manufactured in Texas and then shipped to Ann Arbor where it is being assembled behind the Transportation Research Institute on Baxter Road. The site will be tested and running by the end of July, according to Palms.

He said modular structure gives the center more flexibility to expand its data capacity as needed by researchers.

“By using a more modular approach, we don’t have to build a whole lot of capacity and have it sitting there waiting,” Palms said. “We can deliver the capacity on a more on-time basis.”

He explained that the data center will not always be needed and therefore the site is more cost-effective and practical though it is slightly less reliable. Though the center is a “Tier 1” — the least reliable type of site — the center is only expected to crash once every five years at most, according to Palms.

Maria Sheler-Edwards, marketing communications specialist for the Office of Research Cyberinfrastructure, said part of what distinguishes the MDC is its shared computing feature that will allow researchers to purchase the appropriate amount of data time and space for their particular projects. Palms said this is ideal for storing computer equipment, which can be easily restarted and also allows researchers to store the equipment at a much lower cost.

“High-performance computing is becoming much more in demand by many researchers on campus, so the lower their cost of acquiring that ability, the more research they can do,” she said.

Sheler-Edwards said she is hopeful about the success of this new technology.

“What we’re doing is really very new and cutting edge, and we have very high hopes,” Sheler-Edwards said. “We’ll wait and see what happens, but if this works then we could expand with this technology in the future.”

Prof. Kenneth Powell is an aerospace engineering researcher who plans to use the new MDC for computing. He said he thinks the center will positively impact research on campus.

“I’m happy to see the University taking a proactive step with data center activities in a bigger, strategic plan,” Powell said. “I think it is going to be a good move for the University.”

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