by Edward Qualtrough

St Andrews data centre delivers savings and boosts IT morale

Mar 05, 20142 mins
IT Strategy

CIO at the University of St Andrews, Steven Watt, said the recognition for the 600-year-old institution’s award-winning data centre has helped boost morale in its 100-strong IT department.

The St Andrews micro data centre, built on a brownfield site, is saving the university around £65,000 in electricity bills, with Watt saying the it could be as much as £1.4 million over 10 years against the sector average.

Watt outlined his own measures of success for the delivery of the facility, which included staff and student satisfaction, enablement of core business processes, increased systems availability and the perception of his own team.

“Staff morale is up,” he said. “The department knows it’s not seen as a team supporting a failing infrastructure.”

Speaking at the Data Centre World conference in London last week, Watt described the process of building a micro centre in what was essentially a ‘small fishing village in north east Fife’ on the site of some of the university’s squash courts.

Watt said that when he joined the university in 2010, he had the job of supporting 4,100 PCs in 147 campus buildings, with 400 servers running across 50 sites. One of the biggest challenges, therefore, was one of energy cost and honouring the university’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2016.

“We were trying to reduce the variety of what we support,” he said, “reducing costs along the way and also adding value back so we’re not just seen as a cost sink for reducing the amount of real estate consumed.”

Watt said that the university did use a public cloud for student email, although staff email at the research intensive institution sits in a private cloud.

However, despite the commitment made by St Andrews to be carbon neutral by 2016, Watt warned that it was dangerous to view the sustainability of data centres purely based on their relative costs and energy efficiency.

“I don’t see a time in the future when data centres become fully sustainable, especially when looking at their component parts,” he said.

“For example, our students are very interested in the ethics around conflict minerals and full sustainability can’t really happen when you look at all the component parts of a modern data centre.”