TTBD Innovator Spotlight: Perry Gliessman

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 on the university’s West Campus.

Gliessman is a 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,” which can efficiently accommodate a diverse range of equipment with associated power requirements to meet the current and future needs of OHSU’s healthcare, research, and academic missions. The unique design of the new data center achieves excellent efficiency and uses existing OHSU computing hardware in combination with new state-of-the-art equipment. The new center has demonstrated that energy-efficient data centers can build on existing equipment rather than replacing legacy hardware with identical custom-designed central processing units.

Perry Gliessman in front of OHSU’s Data Center

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 (it’s built on minimal fault lines, has a seismically stable geodesic design, and can endure high wind loads and the accumulation of volcanic ash)

Gliessman disclosed his invention to Technology Transfer & Business Development  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, Gliessman presented his concept and validation data along with a business plan and proposed construction budget to university leadership. The unique building design raised some obvious questions, since it is significantly different than classic data center designs.  He described it as requiring a “leap of faith” by several key stakeholders at the university, but by 2013 plans were 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 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, Technology Transfer & Business Development is in discussions with firms interested in licensing and implementing the patent pending, copyrighted design.

Data Dome fun facts:

  • The design is extremely energy efficient and implements a structure that aligns with the Energy Trust of Oregon. Thus, the Trust gave OHSU an energy credit and is now developing a new program to reward data center innovative design for other construction projects across Oregon.
  • 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, Gliessman said he couldn’t think of a more rewarding endeavor.