The University of Southampton is preparing to build a new technology facility to replace the one burned to the ground a year ago this month. The building housed key IT and scientific research equipment and resources.
The fire, on Sunday 30 October, hit the four-storey Mountbatten Building at the university’s Highfield campus. A micro-fabrication facility and main office buildings were destroyed in the fire.
The fire caused “the most amount of damage a university building has suffered, apart from the University of New Orleans. We didn’t get into the building for two weeks," said Joyce Lewis, communications manager for the university's Electronics and Computer Science department.
“Then our system guys did a supermarket dash for half an hour and grabbed 48 servers. They carried them out and rebuilt the system overnight,” added Lewis. The web servers were in an adjacent building which was rendered unusable. As a result, the university lost all of its e-mail and web communications for a week.
Since then, the university has been working on developing “decentralised” software agents that can keep IT systems running in disaster situations.
Professor Nick Jennings, head of research, is leading the £5.5m project, called Aladdin, which is funded by BAE Systems.
“The fire has certainly strengthened my belief about the importance of the domain and the need to ensure that disparate organisations, with their own aims and objectives, are well co-ordinated,” he said.