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L to R: James Woodward, John Thompson and Jeff Hall

New data centre for MMU

MMU has introduced a new, high density data centre to improve the reliability of IT services and reduce environmental impact

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | June 09, 2014 | Higher education

Situated close to the city centre, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is the largest, campus-based undergraduate university in the UK, with a total student population of more than 37,000.

Sustainability is an important aspect of the University’s operations. In 2007–8, MMU’s carbon footprint from gas, electricity and business travel was 24,797 tonnes, which cost £4.6m. By implementing a series of dramatic changes, the University is on target to reduce its carbon footprint to 15,600 tonnes, saving £3.8m annually.

The University has recently completed the second phase of a new primary data centre. As a large consumer of energy, it developed a strategy to reduce the operating cost of providing IT services which ranged from implementing power management software for staff PCs to consolidating communications rooms, server rooms and data centre facilities.

“As the greenest university in UK league tables, it’s important that everybody contributes to the sustainability agenda at MMU and the data centre is an obvious opportunity,” says James Woodward, IT Client Services Manager at MMU. “Our consolidation strategy was aimed at improving the efficiency and availability of the data centre, as well as increase capacity utilisation over the lifecycle of the new facility.”

Prior to commencing the consolidation strategy, IT services were provisioned through myriad server rooms and small data centres spread around the campus. Ensuring adequate power and cooling for the IT equipment had proven to be a challenge as there were issues with ‘dirty’ mains.

Investment for the new data centre was provided by Salix Finance Ltd, but to access funding, Woodward and his team first had to audit the energy consumption of the ad-hoc server rooms and associated equipment. Actual energy use was compared with that forecast after consolidation, making a strong case for the project with a return on investment well within a required five-year period.

It was also decided to locate the new data centre within an existing space on the campus, which saved the cost of a new building and reduced the emissions associated with demolition and removal of old buildings.

Built by APT, an Elite Partner to Schneider Electric, the new 120kW N+1 scalable, modular primary data centre uses APC InfraStruxure with Hot Aisle Containment System (HACS), together with StruxureWare for Data Centers software. It provides one-hour minimum fire and water resistance and includes a raised floor for services. The HACS system increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the cooling solution and enables higher density IT to be accommodated.

A Symmetra PX UPS provides 15 minutes autonomy for the IT in the event of an outage. Physical security is also important and the room is also protected by CCTV monitoring and swipe card access that can be extended to individual racks.

“In operations, the use of StruxureWare for Data Centers software enables us to plan the way racks are utilised, and ensure that we have capacity for new service deployments,” said James Woodward. “We can also monitor energy consumption which is helping to ensure the on-going efficiency and resilience of the data centre.”

James Woodward adds: “Our new primary data centre has had a significant impact on MMU’s carbon footprint, reducing our overall emissions by 4% and taking a big stride towards our target of a 25% reduction. We’re also seeing annual savings in energy costs exceeding 30% at the same time as gaining better control over our data centre capacity utilisation.

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