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

IT Science Use Case: 900-year-old institution decides to upgrade its creaky IT with a centrally managed system for both physical and digital management.

Talk about old school: Cambridge University, in Cambridge, England, is the very definition of the term. This is an institution that was founded in 1209, the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's fourth-oldest continually operating university.

It may be venerable, but it is thinking strictly new-generation when it comes to its IT system.

The university is currently in the process of updating an, shall we say, antiquated computer network that was built piecemeal over the last couple of generations—and some of it longer ago than that.

Cambridge's 120 academic, research and staff departments have about 200 locations that can be considered "server rooms," housing all the equipment that deliver the services, teaching and learning platforms, research platforms, backup systems and everything else.

Lost Control of IT Power Long Ago

The university had long ago lost control of its IT power management; in fact, it had no IT management, power or otherwise, of which to speak. Everything was in silos, as is common in older organizations.

"We have everything from a rack in a cupboard under the stairs to a space converted from office or research lab, many of which are not very efficient and lead to poor management of the service," Ian Tasker, IT director for the university, told eWEEK. "Therefore, this meant poor IT energy management for the university as a whole."

Three years ago, Cambridge decided to do something about its creaky system. Tasker was tasked with finding the right components to put together a unified system that had to have three central functions: be highly available, be energy efficient and be secure.

"Early in 2012 we decided to build the university's very first purpose-built data center. We were given the target of 25 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to existing facilities," Tasker said.

Tasker and his team did their due diligence, tested a group of potential solution packages and decided on a relatively new one on the market: Emerson Network Power's Trellis.

Chose Emerson's Trellis for DCIM

Trellis is a new-gen data center infrastructure management (DCIM) hardware and software package, first launched in 2012, that one simply plugs in, connects to all the necessary nodes and puts to work. It's not much more complicated than that.

Trellis offers complete control of—and real-time visibility into—a data center's daily workload production, both physical and virtual, necessary for an enterprise to accomplish these three goals: a) manage the workloads with speed and efficiency, b) keep the content secure at all times and c) do it all using less power from the walls.

Trellis' lineage can be traced both to its Avocent software origins and Emerson's long experience in physical data center and power backup systems, going back several decades.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...