Innovator Spotlight: Perry Gliessman

                                                                            OHSU Data Center

Perry Gliessman has a long, innovative history at OHSU. For over 20 years, he developed technologies for medical research and data acquisition at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC). His inventions ranged from unique patient monitoring systems and surgical instruments to multi-channel neurotransmitter infusion and sampling systems designed for neuroendocrine research. He also designed and drove the implementation of the first fiber optic network for the OHSU West Campus. Then during his seven-year tenure as the Director of Technology Services for OHSU's Information Technology Group, he designed a new, state of the art data center located on the university's West Campus in Beaverton, Oregon.

Perry is a truly futuristic thinker. He realized in 2009 that the existing OHSU data center was inefficient and the capacity was insufficient to meet OHSU's burgeoning computing and storage needs. Anticipating "big data" generated by the university, Perry designed the advanced Data Dome that can efficiently accommodate a diverse range of equipment with associated power requirements to meet the current and future needs of OHSU's healthcare, research, academic missions. The unique design of the new data center achieves some of the best efficiencies in the industry while using existing OHSU computing hardware in combination with new state-of-the-art equipment, contrary to the idea that many energy efficient data centers require all legacy hardware to be replaced with identical custom designed central processing units (CPUs).

By challenging the boundaries of industry standards, he created a data center that is:
  • Less expensive to operate
  • More energy efficient (ductwork, fans, chillers, air conditioners and humidifiers have been eliminated – the dome shape enhances natural air flow)
  • Easily expandable as university demand grows
  • Resistant to natural disasters (located on minimal fault lines, seismically stable geodesic design, and can endure high wind loads and the accumulation of volcanic ash)

Perry disclosed his invention to the office of Technology Transfer & Business Development (TTBD) in April of 2010. The proof of concept for the Data Dome was ready by 2011. He completed his calculations for design structure, airflow, heat exchange and power distribution and utilized a computer aided design program to generate a three-dimensional design package. After OHSU filed a patent application on his design, Perry took the design to a local engineering company, CH2M Hill, for data validation using computational fluid dynamics. Once the validation process was complete, Perry presented his concept and validation data along with a business plan and proposed construction budget to university leadership. The world class, completely unique building design raised some obvious questions since it is significantly different than classic data center designs. Regardless, there was remarkable support for the concept. He described it as requiring somewhat of a "leap of faith" by several key stakeholders at the university, and by 2013 plans to implement the Data Dome at OHSU was underway. It took 13 months and $14 million to construct the Data Dome, plus $8 million to implement the data center internal network. The Data Dome has been recognized for its highly energy efficient design, which as a result, requires minimal operational costs and can be remotely operated. If running at full capacity, the Data Dome would pay for itself in approximately seven years. The Data Dome is a breakthrough data center design comparable in power utilization efficiency to the top data centers in the world. Consequently, TTBD is in discussions with firms interested in licensing and implementing the patent pending, copyrighted design.

Data Dome fun facts:

  1. The design is extremely energy efficient and implements a structure that aligns with the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO). Thus, the ETO gave OHSU an energy credit for constructing this energy efficient design and is developing a new program to reward data center innovative design for other construction projects across the state of Oregon.
  2. Outside air is drawn into the data center across a vegetative "bioswale" that encircles the dome to provide additional cooling.

When asked about his overall impression of his technology commercialization experience, Perry said he couldn't think of a more rewarding endeavor.