Another award for ground breaking data centre

Another award for ground breaking data centre

The award winning IT data centre for all further and higher education institutions in north-east Scotland has won yet another UK-wide accolade.

The £1.2 million North East of Scotland Shared Data Centre (NESSDC) secured the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA) 2013 Award for Excellence, which recognises best practice of IT use in the tertiary education sector.

The prize is the latest in a line of IT, education and sustainability awards scooped by the project.

The ten month, large-scale, complex and high-risk project saw an upgrade to the live primary data centre at the University of Aberdeen. The University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University, and North-East Scotland College agreed to pool resources and jointly invest in one state-of-the-art shared data centre and spearhead a shared-service approach.

Tasks included major construction work, innovative technology deployment and relocation of all network/server kit whilst all business operations were kept running.

In judging, the UCISA said: “The panel felt that the collaboration was an exemplary approach to the development and ongoing operation of shared services to the benefit of all partners which, in addition to providing immediate benefits from a more cost effective and carbon efficient data centre, provides a strong foundation for further collaboration going forward.”

Project Chair and Head of Service Management at the University of Aberdeen, Brian Henderson, said: “The team are delighted to receive this award, it is an important and national level of recognition, which arrives just as the partners reach the half-way stage on the build of the new shared secondary data centre – a clear example of how the NESSDC is acting as foundation for further collaboration and cost saving.”

The NESSDC, based at the King’s College campus of the University of Aberdeen, now hosts the IT infrastructure for the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College.

The project has reduced the sector’s carbon footprint by more than 1,400 tonnes annually, as well as slashing energy bills by more than a quarter of a million pounds each year.

Using the external supplier Workspace Technology Ltd and specialist in-house staff, the major objective was to develop a shared-service approach, while delivering significant institutional savings by allowing institutions to vacate current environmentally unfriendly facilities which were unsustainable based on current performance and future requirements.

The capital funding for the upgrade project was provided entirely by the four partner institutions.

The project involved re-locating all 400 servers in the previous University of Aberdeen’s data centre and hundreds from the other partner institutions, re-locating and re-wiring over 100 live network components and two full Janet racks, replacing all flooring and ceilings and major external construction work.

Associate Principal at Aberdeen College, Frank Hughes, added: “All business operations and IT services had to be kept running whilst this major upheaval and improvement was completed. Due to the duration of the project, this included working around non-interruptible examination periods and various business critical phases.”

"This was a colossal undertaking by the teams involved from across the four institutions,” said Andrew McCreath, Executive Director of IT and Communication at the Robert Gordon University. “Together we have created a low carbon, highly efficient data centre for the whole of North-East Scotland’s tertiary education sector and to achieve this national recognition is a tribute to everyone involved in the project.”