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University of Lincoln undergoes edge datacentre modernisation project

The University of Lincoln has shared details of the work it has done to ensure the uptime and resiliency of the edge datacentre environments that host the cloud-based applications its students and staff use on a day-to-day basis.

The organisation, which has a city centre-based campus that is used by more than 15,000 students, has recently completed a datacentre modernisation project with the help of digital automation and energy management company Schneider Electric and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) provider RMD UK.

The project aimed to ensure the University can continue to provide its students and staff with consistent access to the cloud-based software they rely on each day to complete their studies and do their jobs, which is hosted within a series of comms rooms on campus.

“The university operates a centralised datacentre where [campus] users, including the admin team, students, and educators, as well as its research and commercial partners, are dependent upon [Software-as-a-Service] applications for the majority of tasks,” said the organisation, in a statement.

“This makes uptime and reliable access to cloud services a critical requirement for all users of the network throughout its 25 buildings.”

Darran Coy, senior infrastructure analyst for ICT services at the University of Lincoln, said the institution’s opens a new building “nearly every year” and each one needs its own mini-datacentre to house the IT racks and supporting power and cooling systems to stand its SaaS estate up.

“[Each building has] its own comms room, populated with IT racks including servers and networking equipment, together with all the necessary supporting infrastructure including cooling, structured cabling, power distribution (PDUs) and power protection. It is the epitome of edge computing,” said Coy.

As disclosed by the University of Lincoln, none of its campus buildings have standby power-generating capabilities, which means it is heavily reliant on UPS units to ensure resiliency and protect against power outages. As such, there are 110 Schneider Electric UPS units deployed across its campus-based edge environments.

These units are looked after and maintained by RMD UK, who has been working with the university for more than a decade. It is also responsible for overseeing the management and deployment of Schneider Electric’s datacentre infrastructure management (DCIM) software too as part of the project.

“The Schneider Electric software provides the University of Lincoln with full visibility of its distributed IT equipment across the campus, enabling ICT Services to centrally manage and monitor all elements of its datacentre physical infrastructure – from the temperature within the edge server rooms to the health and condition of the UPSs, and their associated battery runtime,” the university said.  

“This not only enables the IT team to prioritise ongoing remedial tasks and respond more quickly to unforeseen events and outages, but has also allowed cooling in the datacentres and edge facilities to be optimised for greater operational efficiency and lower power consumption.”

The latter has been made easier by the fitting of “bypass panels” by RMD that make it easier to maintain and replace the UPS systems without causing any disruption to the IT systems running in the edge environments.

“Bypass panels are now being retrofitted to existing UPS deployments and have been made standard in the electrical design for all infrastructure supporting the universities new edge server rooms,” the university added.

Mark Yeeles, vice-president for the secure power division at Schneider Electric UK and Ireland, said the project has brought numerous benefits to the university, both from a resiliency and environmental perspective.

“The modernisation strategy chosen by the University of Lincoln demonstrates why improving the reliability of the IT network goes hand-in-hand with reducing its environmental impact,” said Yeeles.

“The university now has a more operationally and energy efficient infrastructure system, which importantly, helps towards its target of becoming net zero, and provides a resilient learning environment for future generations of students to further their education.”

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