UK research secures new national data centre
By Robert Roe
A new data centre, funded by the Higher Education funding council for England (HEFCE), will provide high-performance computing to a consortium of UK universities and research institutes under a five-year agreement.
With recent announcements from the US concerning exascale and data-centric computing, the UK is following suit. Having research organisations and Universities connected through co-location of a data centre provides a quick and safe environment to share large amounts of data needed for scientific collaboration.
The Data centre provider, Infinity, has secured a five year framework agreement with Janet, the UK’s national research and education network, provided by Jisc, a registered charity that champions the use of digital technologies in UK education and research.
For researchers, the high capacity of the Janet network backbone allows the linking of large data storage and high performance computing facilities at national and international levels. This will allow the community to share large swathes of data, helping to push the traditional boundaries of teaching, learning and research methods.
The creation of a Jisc data centre to support the requirements for academic research and will be the first shared data centre for medical and academic research in the UK. The funding of approximately £900,000 to make the facility happen has been provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
At launch, in September 2014, the Jisc data centre will house the IT of a consortium of scientific and academic organisations. The initial Jisc partners are: University College London (UCL), Kings College London, The Sanger Institute, The Francis Crick Institute, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Alison Davis, ICT director of The Francis Crick Institute said: ‘This isn’t just about just getting a cost benefit from going out to co-location collectively but also we want to have a secure collaborative space and we got funding this year from the MRC for something called the E-medLab which is a joint project between ourselves UCL, the Sanger and EBI where we are going to have the first real project to build in that secure collaborative space.
Davis went on to say ‘we would also like this space to be a collaborative with vendors and to be a sandbox area where researchers and people who are doing best of breed work in Industry can come and collectively share ideas and sandbox potential solutions.’
Tim Marshall, executive director Jisc technologies and Janet CEO said: ‘By having the shared data centre users can access off-site data storage and services. This world-leading facility will mean that users can consolidate their sensitive data in one safe environment and increase collaboration, whilst saving money both in terms of their operational costs and by not having to repeatedly procure facilities.
The data centre will be connected to the Janet network core and part of its backbone, therefore facilitating access, reducing costs and meeting the bandwidth requirements of large data sets. As space becomes premium on campus this is a significant step on the journey to the cloud and already indications are that this will be a major breakthrough for the UK education and research community.’
Infinity will operate the data centre at its flagship Slough data centre in the UK. The design combines a traditional three tier datacentre with a flexible range of low to high power rack densities and an aggregated discount pricing structure across all organisations using the service, ensuring that the infrastructure is workload focused and value driven. This is the first large scale example of high performance computer environments being placed in an outsourced co-location facility.
Stuart Sutton, Infinity’s CEO, said: ‘Infinity is immensely proud to be selected as the best in class data centre provider for the development of this nationally important facility. The work that the education and research sectors do can be life changing and the technology used will further the UK’s position as a global leader in medical and academic research. We are extremely pleased to be a part of that. The creation of an unsurpassed community of interest for the education and research sectors here at Infinity Slough is a fantastic opportunity for us and something that we are very excited about. Infinity’s flexible and innovative approach to data centre services was key to securing this deal. This is a great example of Infinity’s opinion that the outsourced DC market is no longer a place for property transactions – it is a flexible, scalable, partnership that delivers an important component to the overall IT solution. We look forward to working collaboratively with Jisc.’