University of Birmingham

High-Speed Wireless

Founded in 1900 the University of Birmingham was the UK’s first civic or ‘redbrick’ university. The University has a well-deserved reputation for innovation, including being the first to use a campus model and to incorporate a medical school, and regularly wins sector awards such as the Sunday Times’ University of the Year 2013-14.

The University operates a central data centre to support the computing applications used by its staff and 27,000 students across its campus. The data centre team turned to AIT to advise how they could run its data centre more efficiently and reduce its running costs.

The challenge

The data centre team wanted to incorporate efficiency measures with a clear return on investment in their main data centre on Campus. The data centre hall, originally arranged for mainframe computing, was a large open room with raised floor plenum for the supply of cold air and computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units around the walls to cool and circulate the air.

A separate building management system (BMS) manages the building infrastructure including the fire suppression systems which would need to be integrated into any solution, if affected.

AIT performed a site audit and looked at simple measures that could be taken to improve the current data centre, without causing downtime and affecting operations. The open nature of the data centre with lack of hard separation between hot and cold aisles, typical of this era of data centre, was identified as the best area to work on in order to provide quick win energy savings.

The solution

A cold aisle containment solution was recommended in order to reduce air recirculation between hot and cold aisles and direct cold air more efficiently to the front of the server racks. The original room layout included a ceiling level fire suppression system, so the new containment sub-ceiling included an active roof system, which would open and allow the fire suppressant into the cold aisle in event of fire.

AIT integrated the active roof system with the proprietary BMS in order to activate should a fire occur within the data centre hall.

“AIT data centre expertise enabled us to quickly identify which solution provided us a quantifiable return on investment and how to best proceed” Said Steve Burton, Data Centre Manager, University of Birmingham.

The data centre team decided to initially install cold aisle containment in a single aisle as a proof of concept and monitor the results to ensure the promised return on investment materialised.

The result

AIT installed the cold aisle containment and the effect was instant.

The University decided to move ahead with containment of the remaining aisles as the next step in driving efficiency, lowering energy costs and reducing their carbon footprint.