UW Information Technology

A win for STEM

An IT partnership with UW Bothell helps redirect resources to its academic mission

Tim Rhoades, Director of IT Operations at UW Bothell, said a partnership with UW Seattle helped Bothell make room for a new degree program.

Tim Rhoades, Director of IT Operations at UW Bothell, said an agreement to move Bothell’s data center to Seattle helped his school  make room for a new degree program.

Four years ago, UW Bothell faced a big challenge: the campus was growing at a phenomenal pace and its data center would not be able to keep up.

A solution seemed within reach when plans for Discovery Hall, a new building to house UW Bothell’s School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, also called for building a new data center there, with plenty of room to grow. But Bothell officials were not convinced building a new data center on campus was the best option. So they started talking with University of Washington Information Technology (UW-IT) colleagues at the Seattle campus.

As a result of this partnership, UW Bothell decided to have UW-IT host its new data center at the UW Tower and the 4545 Building on the Seattle campus. The solution was as simple as it was elegant—and it had a profound effect for UW Bothell. By freeing up space at Discovery Hall, the University had plenty of room to include a mechanical engineering degree in its STEM program.

“It was a terrific win for us,” said Tim Rhoades, Director of IT Operations at UW Bothell. “We are always looking at how to get the most out of the money students are spending on their education, and moving our data center to Seattle helped us redirect resources to our academic mission. In this case, it resulted in the addition of an engineering degree in a beautiful building with a STEM program that has become the hallmark of our campus.”

Moving a data center off campus was an excellent technological solution, but Rhoades and Brad Greer, UW-IT Associate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, knew they had some convincing to do.

“You are asking faculty and staff to trust a data center outside their campus walls with their intellectual property and other sensitive information,” Greer said. “We had to make a case for our partnership and build trust.”

The plan made fiscal sense—there would be savings to hosting a data center off campus. Also, it would create more robust systems for Bothell.

“We struggle with power in Bothell. The electricity goes out sometimes, and in this day and age, you don’t want to go dark,” Rhoades said. “We have actually built resiliency for our campus.”

“We are bursting at the seams so we always want to do things more efficiently.”

Bothell has 20Gbps (primary and backup) capacity back to the UW main campus. These connections are provided on two, diverse paths for redundancy and geographic diversity. The campus can use up to 20Gbps at a time, and if one path goes down, the other would become active. “They want to make sure that we are not going to be disconnected,” Rhoades said.

These blazing-fast connections have encouraged more research work at Bothell. Faculty and students have direct access to Hyak, UW’s integrated, scalable, high performance computing cluster in Seattle operated by UW-IT. Most recently, three UW Bothell mathematicians used Hyak to make math history, solving a longstanding math problem and attracting international attention.

Bothell and UW Seattle are also important players in plans for a high-speed fiber optic network around Lake Washington that will go live in January 2017, thanks to a partnership with 23 municipalities in the Seattle metro area.

The network will provide increased capacity for UW Bothell, and directly support the UW’s Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) program being developed in Bellevue. GIX is a partnership between the UW, Microsoft and Tsinghua University in China to create a new master’s degree in technology innovation. UW-IT designed and engineered the network and is under contract to operate it. In Bothell, the network is expected to have a positive effect on several programs.

Tim Rhoades outside of Discovery Hall at UW Bothell.

Standing outside Discovery Hall, which opened fall 2014, Rhoades said striking an ongoing partnership with UW-IT has made a big difference for his campus.

Just a few years ago, UW Bothell had 1,500 students. Today, enrollment is at about 5,000, and about 1,000 of them are STEM students. It is one of the fastest-growing campuses in the nation.

“We are bursting at the seams so we always want to do things more efficiently,” Rhoades said. “Remote data centers, the cloud and high-speed networks that connect our main institutions—that’s where technology is going, and we are fully embracing these services and partnerships.”