Durham University is undergoing a data centre consolidation and has eschewed cloud infrastructure due to the “lack of appropriately-equipped local providers” in the north east.
Chief Information Officer Dr Carolyn Brown discussed in a recent CIO Profile interview how the 200-year-old institution was undergoing a technology simplification across the university, with three data centres eventually replacing the 24 previously in use as the old IT ‘fiefdoms’ in each academic department are removed.
But Brown said that the university’s needs, which included energy-efficient high-performance computing, meant outsourced cloud services were not the right fit for Durham.
“We have designed and are tendering for three data centres, one of them is for High Performance Computing,” she said. “Extensive analysis and debate went into whether we could buy cloud services rather than host our own data centre – but the uniqueness of our HPC services, the cost impact of our obligation to pay VAT and the lack of appropriately-equipped local providers made outsourcing unfeasible.”
Brown said that the new data centres will have two petabytes of storage available through dynamic management that will move data further and further away, according to the usage ratio.
Durham decided to build the data centres itself because of its unique needs for high performance computing to serve the academics and pupils of data tech hungry students in science and engineering (and sometimes in the humanities).
“Very few outsourced services provide this, and none is as energy efficient as what Durham University can build in the north east,” she explained.
CIO at the University of St Andrews, Steven Watt, said in 2014 that the relative remoteness of St Andrews meant cloud infrastructure was not an option for the 600-year-old university, which built a micro data centre on the site of an old squash court which could save as much as £1.4 million over 10 years against the sector average.
[Read the full University of Durham CIO Carolyn Brown interview here]