Balancing efficiency and performance – the University of Turin’s innovative data centre strategy

Alex Brew, from Vertiv, explains how his firm helped the University of Turin realise its ambitions for more powerful data labs and a more ambitious IT system

It’s no secret that infrastructure teams across the world are under intense pressure. They must balance the requirement to be efficient and cost effective, whilst ensuring optimum reliability and performance. In the age of managed ICT services, teams must work hard to maintain, and where possible, increase their skills and design capabilities when implementing hardware and software systems.

This is exactly the challenge facing the University of Turin (UniTO) – one of the oldest and most prestigious Italian universities with a reputation for trailblazing technology innovation.

Within its 27 departments hosting more than 80,000 students, UniTO has several multi-disciplinary centres and laboratories aimed at promoting research and the transfer of technology surrounding specific topics. Among these are the renowned HPC4AI@UniTO open-access lab focuses on methods and tools for cloud and High-Performance Computing (HPC), particularly applications related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data and Analytics (BDA).

To power this innovative lab and support the university’s wider IT system, a new data centre was needed. It had to be designed according to the most innovative systems available, both for cooling and uninterruptable power, and to respond to the most stringent parameters in terms of energy consumption and environmental impact. What’s more, it also needed to be sympathetic to its surroundings as it is located within the university campus in the centre of bustling Turin.

And this meant that trusted technology partnerships were urgently required.

Harnessing Vertiv’s expertise

To meet its ambitious goals, UniTO developed a Tier III data centre (with N+1 redundancy) capable of supporting up to 250 kW of ICT equipment, comprising 16 cabinets of at least 20 kVA each, and also hosting high density servers (1.5 kW per unit). The data centre was built inside an armoured and soundproof glass room, clearly visible for students and researchers passing through the IT department. It also needed to achieve exceptional energy efficiency levels, which is where the expertise of technology leader, Vertiv, came in.

Vertiv implemented an innovative, energy-efficient, air-cooling system which enabled the university to achieve a substantial reduction in cooling system complexity. The highly-efficient external cooling solution uses indirect freecooling with integrated evaporative cooling, and a supplementary direct expansion system. In addition, a water treatment system has also been installed for the management of the water supply to optimise water usage, implemented by the installer. The data centre is also equipped with exhaust networks for the new units and a cooling system for the Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) room.

Importantly, as the building is located within the university campus in a crowded area of Turin, the university harnessed Vertiv’s innovative evaporative freecooling solution in order to minimise both noise pollution to the outside area, and the impact of the data centre within the campus itself.

The modular, transformer-free UPS allows UniTo to easily scale up to 250 kW of additional power capacity without increasing the unit’s footprint. It can also operate in double conversation mode, which can result in up to 96.3% energy efficiency, or up to 99% in ECO mode. The unit is approved by the ETL (Energy Technology List) for UK customers, who can claim back 100% of their first-year capital allowance under the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme.

UniTO also relies on Vertiv’s Life Services to provide continuous insight into critical equipment operation to allow for performance improvements, streamlining service processes for faster diagnostics, and add equipment operational analysis and service optimisation. With Life Services, Vertiv experts continuously monitor and analyse all the relevant control and operating parameters of the equipment to maintain optimum performance. This data-driven approach allows UniTo to closely monitor current equipment status and operational trending, predict behaviours and respond immediately to out-of-norm conditions – either resolving issues remotely or dispatching a field engineer within minutes.

A partnership delivering long-term benefits

By harnessing the expertise of Vertiv, UniTO has been able to enjoy countless benefits, such as the absence of wet services within the data centre itself, resulting in increased safety, noise reduction, reduced implementation time, increased rack space (therefore much more space for the installation of servers dedicated to HPC, AI and BDA) within the data centre, and increased IT infrastructure security.

And importantly, being energy efficient has not come at the detriment of power and performance. Thanks to Vertiv’s leading technology solutions, the university has benefitted from a data centre with low environmental impact, which also delivers all of its operational requirements.

For more information, read the full case study on the Vertiv website

Alex Brew is sales director for Vertiv in the UK and Ireland. 

Read more: New fast track product management programme opens for applications

Leave a Reply