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Wisconsin blizzard vs. data center: How marquette won

Shane O'Neill | Feb. 28, 2011
As blizzards raged across the Midwest in January, snow piled up on the data center roof at Marquette University and wreaked havoc with cooling systems. Here's how Microsoft's Lync unified communications tool helped IT fight back.

The team then shut down servers running their biggest systems, but they were able to keep the e-mail and Lync server up. However, "it was warm, and we weren't sure how long we could keep the Lync server running in that heat," says Smith.

Long enough, it turns out. The Lync conference call became the team's virtual headquarters where the dispersed staff worked together to curb a crisis. Team members who went mobile could dial in to the Lync conference on their cellphones that were running OCS R2, Lync's backward-compatible predecessor.

"When one of my admins had to go into the data center, he would switch over to his cellphone but stay in the Lync conference call so we could give him directions on what server to shut down," says Victor Martinez, Marquette's Windows Lead and a Technical Lead for Lync.

After a full day of coordinating, the Marquette IT team was able to get the first HVAC unit fixed by 7 pm, bringing the temperature down. A few hours later the second HVAC was working again, and because the data center can get by with two HVACs, the team started up all servers that night. The third HVAC unit was fixed the next morning.

Marquette IT team members agree that the voice, video and messaging tools in a UC suite — in this case Lync — provide the best means for any business group to communicate and collaborate, Garsha says.

"I was Googling around for a freebie voice and IM Web service because I felt that without Lync we would be in the dark," says Garsha.

At one point, Smith was collecting peoples' personal e-mail addresses as a last resort if the Lync and e-mail server overheated.

"If we lost Lync, we would be sending e-mails around to the group," says Smith, "which is obviously not as timely or efficient as voice and IM in one app."


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