Canterbury Uni commissions $5 million datacentre

The new centre was built for risk mitigation rather than cost savings, says manager

The University of Canterbury is commissioning a new, lights-out datacentre, which will be fully operational by the end of the year after nine months of construction.

An obsolete technical laboratory was renovated to house computer equipment which was previously operated from a former machine room, built in the 1970s.

Datacentre manager Richard Hanschu says that reducing heat and energy requirements were partly behind the move but, primarily, the new centre was built for risk mitigation rather than cost savings. The former machine room had insufficient cooling and fire protection.

The project cost in excess of $5 million and has delivered what the university says is a “highly redundant and secure facility”.

Hanschu says that, as part of the modernisation, vitualisation will be used to reduce the number of servers. Four servers will replace 50 previously used. Overall, there will be 60 servers remaining.

“We’ll be working on campus consolidation next, and we also plan to have a secondary facility for disaster recovery,” he say. “We’re working on that now.”

The back-up generator will run on a mix of diesel and bio-diesel.

“We began moving in on October 21 and we’re in production now,” Hanschu says. “It will all be in by the end of the year.”

According to Canterbury University’s in-house ICT newsletter, a 160 kW load bank, or heater, has been running in the new datacentre to stress-test cooling and power delivery systems, including the uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems and the generator.

The datacentre’s lights-out management infrastructure is based on Raritan rack mount power distribution units (PDUs) and IP keyboard, video and mouse controlled over the network.

The newsletter notes some challenges remain, including getting a completed redundant fibre route and the installation of new system monitoring technology to let staff know if there are problems with either the facility or the systems running within the facility.

Moving to the new facility was to be spread out from early October until mid-December.

“This will bring a new level of stability to centrally managed ICT systems, and provides the opportunity for colleges to relocate local administrative servers, free up some existing space, and reap the same sort of benefits,” ICT director Clive Martis says of the facility in his newsletter column.

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