Cambridge: Where Old School Literally Goes New-Gen in IT

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2015-02-12 Print this article Print

What were the main criteria the Cambridge team had when making a decision on which way to go?

"What I wanted was a single pane of glass," Tasker said. "I wanted to bring everything I have into managing my whole environment.  I wanted all the environmental controls, the power reporting and all the general facilities performance. I wanted everything to come together into one place.

"The tools that came with Trellis were the only ones that fit that total bill."

Covers a Range of Server Platforms

The new environment had to cover a whole different range of server platforms. "They ranged from supercomputers for research right down to a single server, where someone could run a little database on it. And we had to come up with a system that would satisfy both of those requirements," Tasker said.

"We had to find out which equipment was best, and how to actually monitor and measure both the physical and the digital, and therefore we looked for tech partners in this process. One of the key partners we selected for a number of the features was Emerson Network Power," he said.  

"They had provided us with our efficient UPS [uninterrupted power system]; we went for their Trinity for UPS power transmission, and they also provided us with backup generators. But in order to really achieve the benefits that we were looking for, the big thing we needed were the monitoring tools and actual controls on the overall facility. For that, we needed something that was going to be flexible, adaptable, and something that could grow with us."

Since construction started last year, Cambridge is now well on the way to completing its data center, with about 20 percent of the new system now online. By later this year, about 60 to 70 percent of the system will be refreshed, Tasker said.

Old Servers Still Working—For Now

The new system still contains some of the older servers that are working well enough: There are servers from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Dell, HP—even DEC—in use.  Trellis, software-agnostic as it is, can connect all those dots, old and new.

"We don't expect to move all departments into the new data center in one big hit, so it's going to be a fairly steady migration of services across, and therefore something that's going to be scalable and look to our future needs, rather than just what we have today," Tasker said.

Tasker said he expects a 40 percent power efficiency gain when all the older, less-power-efficient servers live out their days and are replaced. Spread out over the whole university, that's going to mean a yearly power bill savings in the neighborhood of $2 million to $3 million (about $1.75 million to $2.6 million euros).

Old-school or new-school, that's clearly good return on investment.



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