Rackin’ Servers in Barrow

The weather this morning was overcast, raining and in the mid 30s.  First on the agenda was a quick tour of the Barrow Alaska Research Center (BARC).  Walking into the building was like walking into another world.  All of the buildings we had been in so far were either old army buildings from the 1950s, or interconnected shipping containers.   The BARC is part of a 35 million dollar building project to create a scientific research center for all different types of studies by groups from around the world.  There are labs, conference rooms, offices, and a spacious, modern server room.  The building has tall ceilings, a tiled lobby, modern bathrooms, and very nice furniture.  You would think it would be the place to be, but it seemed to be empty compared to the other buildings we had been in.  The older buildings seemed to teem with activity as people came and went.  The BARC was like a library, whereas the other buildings were like college dorms. 

After the tour, we took care of some meetings and paperwork, and then got to work uncrating the rack.  It was shipped in a sturdy wooden crate we had to disassemble outside in the wind and rain.  Luckily, by the time we got the crate open, the rain stopped and it was starting to clear up.  

Uncrating the rack overlooking the tundra
Uncrating the rack overlooking the tundra

 We wrestled the rack into the building and then ran into our first technical issue.  The power to the server racks was 208 volts, but the UPS units provided were 110/120.  Luckily there was a 110 volt outlet along the wall, so we ran an extension cord over to it as a temporary measure until either a different UPS can be purchased, or an electrician can install an outlet by the server rack.  Sounds simple enough, but it took some valuable time to get that all figured out.  It is stressful knowing that not much is available in the local hardware store, and overnight shipments of computer equipment are not an option.  There is a lot of “adapt, improvise, overcome”.  Things moved along pretty well after lunch and by the end of the day we got the servers racked, powered on, and everything cabled up and communicating to the Internet.

Before we knew it, it was 6:00 and time for dinner, so we headed back over to the mess hall for dinner.  After dinner Andrew and I took a walk around the grounds and took some more pictures, which are in the gallery below.  One of the more interesting pictures is the Bowhead Whale scull.  There is a picture of it with Andrew standing in front of it.  The skull weighs about 2 tons.  It was from a 51 foot whale caught in 1987.  The whale weighed approximately 100,000 pounds and it took 14 boats to pull it to shore.  A certain number of whales are still hunted every year.  The hunt is closely controlled, and the number of whales allowed to be killed is based on the health of the species.

We are back at it again tomorrow.  Hopefully we won’t spend the entire day in the server room……

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