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NDUS seeks company to manage data center

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The North Dakota University System's new data center in Grand Forks is looking for a little outside help.

As a part of the NDUS IT Strategic Plan approved in October, a request for proposals was put out, but later canceled, in search of an experienced outside vendor to monitor the site. Officials said the responses the request elicited weren't detailed enough, so now they're in the process of regrouping and are going to try again.

Deputy Chief Information Officer of NDUS Core Technology Services Darin King said this is an industry best practice to make sure the data center is up to par.

"We wanted to make sure, now that we have this facility in place, that we are aligning and mapping to industry best standards as to how we manage and operate that data center," he said. "We were seeking to partner with a company that could bring that kind of experience and knowledge to the table, to help us continue to grow and make that data center into what we want it to be."

King also said the center's current employees don't have to worry about their jobs as the system puts out another request in the near future.

"Reducing data center staff is not currently part of the plan or a request deliverable in the (request for proposals)," he said.

The center and its servers provide IT support and services for the NDUS, including software integration and database and communication infrastructure, including security and telephones.

The strategic plan initiative states the university system is working toward consolidating all data work into one location with an outside vendor monitoring the physical site.

This is partially complete, with all of the system's IT equipment moved into a nerve center in Grand Forks. Construction on the $17.3 million, 40,000-square-foot center began in 2012 with employees starting to move in in November of 2013.

But the new facility is Tier 3, which is the second highest Uptime Institute rank a data center receives for processing and security abilities. King said this rank means the center needs a partner used to working in that caliber of performance.

"If we're going to be the single provider for this kind of service across the university system, then we have an obligation to make sure we keep it up and running at a very high level using the very same standards that a company that does this as their business would do," King said. "We want to do it the same way."

King said the vendor would ideally be from within the United States and work with the six data center employees who currently staff the building 20 hours each day for seven days a week. Twelve system administrators and six other network employees also do data center work.

The potential cost of hiring a vendor has not been set yet, King said.

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