Virtually invisible Trio critical to City Ops

You couldn’t find three people more critical to the operation of the entire City, but no one’s aware of them – unless something goes wrong.

IT Branch’s computer facilities and disaster recovery team. L to R: Dan Mott, Meegan Ball, data centre supervisor Bob Millar

IT Branch’s computer facilities and disaster recovery team. L to R: Dan Mott, Meegan Ball, data centre supervisor Bob Millar

Bob Millar and his City data centre team are critical to the operation of the entire City enterprise, yet they may as well be called the Unheard Of Team.

“People don’t know what we do until something goes wrong and the centre goes down,” says Bob. “But in 30 years, it’s been down only four hours, and that was because of a contractor.”

A 99.999% uptime record is practically unheard of. It’s why Bob, Meegan Ball and Dan Mott fly so low under the radar. They’re darn near perfect, so they’re darn near invisible.

They’re the City’s computer facilities and disaster recovery team, and their ‘playground’ is a huge $50-million data centre which hums 24/7/365 in three locations – running the critical applications and storing the vast amount of data that enable 11,000 City employees to do their work.

The centre’s 2-petabyte storage capacity equals 27 years of continuous HD video, or 1/25th of everything anyone’s ever written, in all languages. The equipment sucks 75,000 kwh of electricity monthly, producing heat that demands 1.5 million BTU in air conditioning to cool.

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Five hundred servers at the 7,000 sq.ft Century Place Centre store and manage apps and data for everything from critical software like SAP, PeopleSoft, POSSE, fire dispatch and plenty more, all the way to those nice little photographs that end up on speeding tickets in your mail.

Everything’s instantaneously backed up to a remote data centre in another office building; telecom backup and emergency storage space reside in City Hall’s parkade, and backup tapes are archived in a secret west end vault.

“Bob’s team has saved us millions,” says IT Operations and Infrastructure Director Martin Dinel. “They’ve maximized capacity by staying on the forefront of technology. Our clients take big hits if the centre goes down, so there are real savings in avoiding trouble.”

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In a recent comparison study of data centre management modes, the City’s team proved $7-million a year less expensive than the lowest outsourcing quote.

After nearly 40 years, Bob still loves the work.

“It’s a whole lot of fun. We do everything from design and engineering to deployment and security. We do projects that not a lot of people like us ever get to do.

“And hey, we’re geeks; we’re always striving for the front edge.

“We get to play with the very best toys.”

(1942)

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