Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

Solihull Council uses AIT expertise to save costs by driving data centre power efficiency

Located just 9 miles from Birmingham city centre and part of the West Midlands conurbation, Solihull was named “best place to live in the UK” by the uSwitch Quality of Life survey in 2013. The Metropolitan Borough of Solihull has a population of 200,400 and includes the NEC, and Birmingham Airport within its boundaries.

As part of its financial vision to reduce costs and provide value for money to its residents, Solihull Council decided to drive efficiency measures in its data centre. After discussing its options with several companies, Solihull chose AIT to help define and implement the necessary improvements.

The challenge

The Operations team that looks after the data centre had a brief to improve efficiency and reduce costs. As part of previous initiatives it had already installed metering to server racks within the data centre. In order to provide an efficiency benchmark, and improve it, the team wanted to start monitoring the overall IT load, including the facilities load such as air conditioning, as well as the computing load, within the data centre.

Deeper investigation also revealed that the power infrastructure had been modified in an ad-hoc manner over time. It was no longer clear to the current operations team whether each rack was fed via two separate power feeds or had proper UPS backup for resilience.

“The AIT team really listened to our needs and then recommended a bespoke solution that fitted our exact requirements with minimum costs for the council”
said Philip Parker, Infrastructure & Data Centre Manager, Solihull Council.

The solution

AIT performed a power infrastructure audit by tracing all power circuits within the data centre to ensure that all servers were fed by two independent (A + B) supplies, and via a UPS. While undertaking this power audit the labelling scheme was simplified from three different systems into a single labelling system to aid future maintenance.

A branch circuit monitoring (BCM) system was recommended in order to monitor the additional air conditioning and facilities power loads. To keep additional costs to a minimum this was designed to integrate with the current server rack metering solution already in place.

Environmental monitoring of the data centre was also improved with the addition of temperature monitoring around the air conditioning units on both the cold outlet and warm air return in order to better control and manage room temperature. Air flow switches were also fitted to the air conditioning units to allow remote on/off monitoring and to monitor cycle times of the various units.

The result

Live fail over testing was performed to prove power supply resilience under failure conditions, ensuring all rack servers will switch between A and B supplies and could survive on UPS during a complete power outage.

AIT continue to provide a managed service to the Solihull Council facilities and data centre team, providing PUE, temperature conditions and power usage across the data centre on a monthly basis.

“We now know our exact data centre efficiency and energy use which allows us to focus on reducing our operating costs”
Solihull Council now boasts a highly resilient, fully monitored data centre, allowing it to provide dependable services for the council. Additional monitoring provides accurate power and environmental data for the team, enabling them to understand and minimize cooling and energy costs over time without compromising safety and resilience.