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The server—the "brain" of the Organization

On 9 March, ITER's brain was handed over to ITER's people. (Click to view larger version...)
On 9 March, ITER's brain was handed over to ITER's people.
The Osiatis team, in charge of server room operations within IT. (Click to view larger version...)
The Osiatis team, in charge of server room operations within IT.
The ITER Organization has always had a powerful brain, but until January, it was detached from its main body. Waiting for the Headquarters Building and a proper server room to be completed, its neurons and synapses were hosted by CEA in Tore Supra building. Then, on 9 March, the server was migrated and so ITER's brain finally rejoined ITER's body.

The ITER server, located on the ground floor of the Headquarters building, is composed of no less than 84 physical machines and more than 180 virtual servers. "This is the Operational Centre of the Organization," explains Jürgen Dirnberger, who coordinated the migration. "Everything goes through these servers: IP telephone system, mail, the management of videoconferences, IDM, data from the Design Office, everything ..."

In order to work properly, the server has to be kept cool at all times. Chips, motherboards, hard disks and power supplies all generate considerable heat. Maintaining the temperature in the server room under 18 °C requires an air conditioning system 30 times more powerful than an average home installation. And safety requires two such systems, amounting to a total of 200 kW of cooling power. This makes the server room a very cool and very noisy place.

Such a precious resource must be treated with great care. Every night, all the data produced in the previous 15 hours is automatically saved on a "remote backup" located at Fusion For Energy in Barcelona (see Newsline #65). Here at ITER, redundant safety systems guarantee that, no matter what, servers will keep serving. In case one air cooling system fails, the second one takes over. What if power fails? It can't! There is a 100 KW uninterruptible power supply (UPS) ready to take over at any time. ITER's UPS is a room-sized battery with 30 minutes of autonomy, soon to be supplemented with a second one which will bring the autonomy to a full hour. "Someone is always on call and half an hour is more than we need to start the diesel generator," says Jürgen.

OK, but what happens if a fire breaks out? Well, it wouldn't burn for long. The first plumes of smoke would almost instantly activate two giant argon canisters, and all the oxygen in the room would be neutralized—no oxygen, no fire.

"The system is young, and we're presently busy tuning it," says Cedric Chaumette, the Osiatis team leader, in charge of server room operations within the Department of CODAC and Information Technology (IT).

return to Newsline #76