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PeopleSoft Information Technology Lab (Systems Lab)

Just in time for the fall 1997 semester, the majority of the systems graduate students moved into a new laboratory on the 3rd floor of Upson. The 3,350 sq. ft. lab, built with a gift from David Duffield, was completely renovated over the course of the summer of 1997 to the specifications of the faculty whose research groups would "live" in the lab. Cinder block walls were torn out, asbestos tiles were lifted from the floor, and a real spaghetti knot of ventilation ducts, chilled beforesyslab.TIF (150924 bytes)
labbay.tif (465416 bytes) water pipes, and electric wires was removed. The first photo shows the mostly gutted area, looking west, with the wall on the right dividing the bathrooms and elevator shafts.

The new lab brings together a number of groups in the Department that are working on topics related to information technology: from networking to extensible server systems to multimedia and computer vision. We wanted to provide an open work environment where students work comfortably but easily turn around and ask questions of others or simply

observe what exciting things are happening in other groups. Toward this goal, we designed the lab to have private areas for each group, but used glass partitions to maintain the feeling of a single large lab. The photo below shows the lab from the entrance area. To the right are three "bays" separated by glass partitions. Each bay is occupied by two research groups.  Toward the inside of the lab, a number of rooms complement the bays.  A machine room houses the network switches
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and the noisy server machines, such as the 100GB NT file server. Two discussion areas, shown in the third photo, are paneled with whiteboards and have comfortable seats for meetings. A small "dirt room" has tools for wood and metal working, as well as for hardware development. The entrance to the lab has a small kitchen to keep the sodas and caffeine flowing as well as reheat pizzas at 2am. The lab is well furnished with computer hardware and assorted toys. There are 40-50 Pentium Pro, Pentium II, and dual-Pentium II PCs, most with 21" monitors and all on the lab's switched fast Ethernet. Many PCs have video conferencing cameras. An omnidirectional camera and several remotely controllable cameras hang from the ceiling (see http://www3.cs.cornell.edu/webcam for a live picture of the lab). The main discussion area has an XGA projection screen. The server room holds three quad Pentium Pro servers and close to 200GB of disk space. In addition, the lab has its own telephone switch (PBX) which is connected to the Cornell telephone network with a T1 line
labconfroom.TIF (468190 bytes) Currently, the research groups of D. Huttenlocher, R. Zabih, S. Keshav, B. Smith, W. Vogels, and T. von Eicken are located in the lab. About 30 PhD students and 20-30 undergraduates and Master of Engineering students are involved. In its first year, the idea of the lab has really panned out: many students are far more aware of the research going on around them. The "cross-fertilization" buzzword  for once accurately describes what is happening. Another benefit of the new lab is that new students can easily integrate into a group and get "jump-started" with research.
This is of particular importance for undergraduates getting involved in research, who have a shorter time-horizon for projects and who typically need more support to get started. In the new lab, there is always someone around to ask.