Computing Services ran two computer rooms on their Milton Keynes campus. Both needed major upgrading, but the university ruled out attempts to upgrade in-situ early in the project as the risk to services was too great for comfort.
“With ever greater expectation being placed on our systems, our best option was a new facility,” explained Adrian Wells, Host Systems Manager. “Our students have always studied at unusual hours and with the increase in international students we are running 24/7, so it is imperative that we are able to offer continuous reliable access around the clock.”
An added complication was the decision for the new computer room to be built as a self contained unit – essentially becoming a room within a room. “Not only did we need a design that would meet our needs in terms of providing a modern, robust, resilient, high-density data centre with plenty of spare capacity, it also had to be resilient to low-level building works, and the ensuing dust and disruption that would be going on around it. Plus, unusually, it had to be weatherproof and watertight for when the building’s roof was being replaced,” Adrian added.
The university had already decided to continue to maintain two separate computer rooms, each capable of delivering all essential university services in the absence of the other. During normal operations the load is shared across both computer rooms with a common virtualised SAN providing resilient data ser-vices to both rooms. The new room became the first phase of a wider project which will also upgrade the second room on campus. OU Estates led a project team with key players from Computing Services to guide the design and implementation. Future-Tech was selected following a competitive tendering proc-ess. “From the outset we were impressed by Future-Tech”, Adrian commented. “Not only did they come up with the best thought through design to meet our requirements, we were won over by the people. Their philosophy matched ours and suited the way we worked; this made for a very effective partnership. Future-Tech convinced us with their practical business approach too. It’s rare to find a supplier that can impress both the Estates management and Computing Services at the same time, with their level of exper-tise and knowledge.”
Future-Tech proposed a fire resistant dual wall, steel room that could be built within the existing space. Power would be provided to the room from dual power supplies backed by an independent generator. Flexibility was a key aspect of the room and was put to the test within weeks of handover. Initially, Future-Tech installed upgradeable 16Amp power circuits. However, the university purchased a high perform-ance disc backup unit requiring a 32Amp circuit, necessitating a painless upgrade. “Every rack in every bay also has dual power supplies”, explained Adrian. “Plus we have environmental sensors (VESDA) that allow us to spot a failing component and change it before it turns into an electrical fire.” While the technical team plan to turn the power off in either computer room from time to time, the sophisticated electrical arrangement means that the SAN will never need to be powered “Future-Tech provided us with more than adequate power supplies, but it’s really important that this room has flexibility built in as the challenge is that we don’t really know what we will need to imple-ment in the coming years.”
Much of the electrical switch equipment also includes embedded thermal imaging devices that allow them to be non-invasively in-spected, further reducing downtime.
“Future-Tech has provided us with an up-to-date central computer room with space for growth and the flexibility and capacity to accommodate different platforms in the future,” Adrian concluded. “The computer room is essential to the way we do business. Our student on-line learning environment is the means of bringing together all our remote learners into one community Future-Tech provided us with a facility that meets all our diverse requirements, came in on budget and was delivered efficiently, by peo-ple who were very sympathetic to our needs.”
Tags: Data Centres