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Clarkson University Launches Plans for Region's First Green Data Center to Power Environmental Research

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Clarkson University celebrated today the launch of plans for the North Country’s first green data center using IBM technologies and renovations to the institution’s historic Old Main building in downtown Potsdam, which will house the data center, as well as serve as research facilities for Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, a subsidiary of Clarkson University. 

Michael Desens, IBM’s vice president, Power and System z Development.In opening remarks, Clarkson President Tony Collins said, “Clarkson’s evolving strengths and vision for the future intersect precisely with the growing needs of our technologically driven society. Today’s event recognizes partnerships with IBM, our elected officials and our larger New York community that expand our campus boundaries by embracing our State’s global role in coupling discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise, and simultaneously leverages our signature strengths to make the North Country a place where relevant and innovative solutions grow and thrive.” 

Last month, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy joined Clarkson University and Beacon Institute in Beacon, N.Y., where the two entities announced their new alliance. Under a new operational structure, Beacon Institute and the University will establish New York as the leader in research and education for water innovation. 

Clarkson, Beacon Institute and IBM established in 2007 an environmental research model for rivers and estuaries that allows for continuous monitoring of physical, chemical and biological data from points in New York’s Hudson, Mohawk and St. Lawrence rivers via an integrated network of sensors, robotics, mobile monitoring and computational technology deployed in the rivers.

Beacon Institute’s fully implemented water management research program requires a robust cyber-infrastructure and data backbone in order to process the massive amounts of data it collects in the Institute’s River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON). 

Clarkson has received an IBM Shared University Research award of more than $1 million, including IBM POWER7 processor-based IBM Smart Analytics System, IBM BladeCenter servers, IBM System Storage, IBM System Networking, and IBM WebSphere application software for a new green data center.

The new facility will substantially expand the University’s capacity to engage in complex computational research and advanced analytics, as well as enhance the operational systems of the University.

Michael Desens, IBM’s vice president, Power and System z Development, said, “IBM and Clarkson have a rich history of joint research and development and this award will accelerate our collaborative efforts in support of the Clarkson, Beacon Institute’s REON observation system and IBM's Smarter Water Initiative"

As part of State funds previously awarded to Beacon Institute for development of its research facilities and program, Clarkson will renovate its Old Main building to further advance the REON sensor platform capabilities and locate the accompanying data center to analyze the massive amounts of environmental data captured in real time with remote telemetry in New York waterways.

President Collins acknowledged the role of New York State Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell and Senator Joseph A. Griffo in passing legislation that paved the way for the collaboration and renovations with the Beacon Institute to move forward.

At the event on Monday, Assemblywoman Russell said, “This partnership is a win-win for all of New York because it creates job growth and new commercialization opportunities to benefit the environment.”

An architectural jewel and prominent showpiece of Potsdam Sandstone, the facade of Old Main remains largely intact to its original design, while the interior reflects the typical ebb and flow of educational program and technology adaptations over the years.

Renovation plans for Old Main, therefore, call for an adaptive reuse of the structure. Green technologies will be incorporated throughout, as well as deployment of solid engineering practices to support sustainability such as high-efficiency boilers and air-handling equipment with energy recovery, increased insulation in walls and ceilings, energy-efficient windows, modern sealants on the building shell, high-efficiency lighting and occupancy sensors with day lighting features to control lights, low VOC paints and adhesives and general features that contribute to a healthy work environment.

As part of the Green Data Center’s functionality, IBM and Clarkson researchers are planning a design that captures the waste heat from the servers and uses it to naturally heat the facility. In contrast to large traditional data centers, the footprint of the state-of-the-art center at Clarkson uses existing space with minimal modifications.

The IBM Shared University Research (SUR) Award is a worldwide award program designed to promote research in areas of mutual value and interest to IBM and universities. The program targets a wide variety of areas, ranging from life sciences, high-performance computing and energy technology, to digital data protection. The collaboration in an area of significant interest to the university and IBM is expected to foster both knowledge transfer and IT innovation. More information about IBM’s university programs is available at

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University celebrated the launch of plans for the North Country’s first green data center using IBM technologies and renovations to the  historic Old Main building, which will house the data center and research facilities for Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, a subsidiary of Clarkson. Above, Michael Desens, IBM’s vice president, Power and System z Development.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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