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Northern Powerhouse secures first shared datacenter for education and research

Liverpool University, Sheffield Hallam University and the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds have signed up to the service

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 21, 2016 | Higher education

Today, in a regional first, the north’s major universities signed a deal to ensure 21st century digital infrastructure is available to education and medical research.

The shared datacentre, procured by Jisc and delivered by aql, provides a cost-effective solution for UK research and education through the provision of secure housing of digital systems and services. In a world where ‘big-data’ is becoming the norm, being able to support the provision of huge processing needs opens doors to a number of significant benefits.

For universities collaborating on core areas, such as medical research, large data sets need to be shared, and at speed – and this is where a shared datacentre comes into its own. Through outsourcing High Performance Computing (HPC) facility, Jisc members can benefit from specialist skills and emerging trends in big-data management, leveraging the extensive capabilities of the Janet network.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy said that this is a key development for northern universities.

“Improving digital infrastructure will help equip businesses and universities of the Northern Powerhouse with the building blocks they need to grow and compete effectively in the global market,” he said.

Among the first education institutes signing up to the service are Liverpool University, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and the University of Leeds.

Dr Barry Haynes, Head of Infrastructure Architecture at the University of Leeds said:

“The successful delivery of the northern datacentre is a key element supporting the University of Leeds Data Centre Strategy to invest in a fit-for-purpose, modern solution to host and manage the University’s data and applications. As datasets and collaborations increase, access to flexible cloud and hosted services have become essential to the delivery of IT services.

This investment will help us realise valuable operational benefits and provide a resilient and well connected hosting facility - Dr Barry Haynes, Head of Infrastructure Architecture at the University of Leeds

"This investment will help us realise valuable operational benefits and provide a resilient and well connected hosting facility."

aql‘s secure, carrier neutral datacentres, with direct access to the Janet network will support the UK academic community’s need for high performance IT infrastructure, not only for research, but also for critical operational infrastructure such as back office systems and IP telephony.

The facilities are designed with high-performance computing in mind, including highly reinforced floors, high cooling and power capability, strong security measures, and specialist installation equipment.

Dr Adam Beaumont, CEO and Founder of aql, said:

“As a Northern Powerhouse partner, providing this significant infrastructure for big data research is a great achievement for aql and for Leeds.

"We have a strong track record in providing secure datacentre services. We’re keen to ensure that we support the research industry with the security measures and expertise to allow them to leverage the power of their data fully.”

aql already hosts the main high-capacity northern access point into Jisc’s Janet network, giving national and international access to the academic community. This network also has a direct connection into IXLeeds – the Northern Internet Exchange - which provides an opportunity for high-capacity access between the Janet network and other commercial networks and key healthcare data stakeholders such as EMIS, making this ideal for supporting public-private big data research projects.

Jeremy Sharp, Director of Strategic Technologies at Jisc said:

"We are very pleased to be able to give our members access to this first-rate shared data centre, and to pass on the cost savings by centrally procuring this service on their behalf. The northern data centre is one of two shared datacentres Jisc facilitate for UK HEIs and the scalability of service they provide means they are as cost-effective as they are efficient.”

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