GM Data-Center Expansion Saves Crash Test Dummies

Who knew that crashing a car into a wall, and measuring the results, could cost nearly $350,000? For an automaker that needs to constantly improve safety, that can translate into spending some big bucks—money that can be saved through simulation.

Crash-test dummies breathed a virtual sigh of relief May 13 when General Motors announced a nearly $400 million investment in a pair of data centers designed to simulate crashes and improve GM’s business operations.

GM has said previously that it plans to consolidate its data center footprint from 23 sites—operated by GM and three other providers—to just two by 2015. Those sites will be located in Warren and Milford, Michigan. Both sites will be mirrored against each other, sharing data to create a private cloud.

The Warren expansion is operational; the Milford center will begin construction this summer and will become operational in July 2014. GM estimated the total cost of the Warren facility at $130 million, and said Milford would cost $100 million for the construction and another $158 million to buy and install the servers and other equipment.

“It’s all about reducing risk and making sure no one event would affect both centers at the same time,” Curt Loehr, GM’s Information Technology project manager, wrote in a statement. “Each center has its own utility feed using separate paths to provide uninterrupted power.  We even checked weather data going back a half century and Warren and Milford are affected by separate weather patterns.” GM wanted sites that were between 25 and 50 miles from each other.

Inside the Warren facility sits what GM refers to as the Information Technology Operations and Command center, which will eventually house 48 workstations plus a 955-square-foot video wall composed of 28 configurable screens that monitor data use. The Warren facility, for its part, will house a total of 24 server clusters and 432 cabinets. GM didn’t say how it would power the facility, which the company estimated would require the electricity needed for 2,700 homes.

While the two sites will perform functions such as manufacturing, marketing, and sales, they will serve another purpose as a hub for OnStar applications, which connect the car to a variety of services. (Connecting cars to clouds has also forced the construction of data centers by companies such as BMW, which said in September that it plans to build a data center in Iceland to compensate for increasing data load; by 2018, some 10 million BMWs will be connected, the company estimates, and trafficking in more than 1 terabyte of data per day.)

In addition, the Warren facility will be used for crash-test simulations. Instead of hurtling $30,000 automobiles at walls and other obstacles, GM estimated that simulating the crashes could save $350,000 apiece.

 

Image: t.peter photodesign-tp de/Shutterstock.com

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