City of Liverpool College (CLC) has this week become the first further education (FE) institution to move into the UK’s dedicated national shared data centre for education and research.
The move will see Infinity’s data centre in Slough housing the IT infrastructure for a new shared service venture the college is launching to support its core business strategies.
The data centre space is offered through a framework agreement by digital technologies charity Jisc and Infinity.
Stuart Sutton, Infinity SDC CEO, told CBR: "Data centre’s are very important for educational institutions. The Jisc anchor tenants who have moved in to our Slough data centre have seen a reduction in operating costs and have been able to better utilise campus space for teaching rather than housing their IT and networking hardware.
"Most importantly, it has allowed them to maximise the potential of High Performance Computing (HPC) and enabled them to share resources with other institutions to advance academic research.
"This is evidence that more should be invested in the cooperation between data centre’s and education institutions."
The decision to move into the shared data centre was taken by the CLC because of Infinity’s direct connections to the core of Janet, the UK’s education and research network.
Darren Watkins, MD at VIRTUS Data Centres, told CBR: "Educational institutions are often engaged in complex research projects, especially within the science faculties, and these research projects generate large volumes of big data.
"This big data requires processing, using HPC which needs to be carried out within environments that are built to support this. New generation data centres have been designed with this in mind, providing high and ultra-high density facilities, enabled by high power and cooling.
"The sheer volume of power and cooling that is required is too expensive for educational institutions to build and operate, so specialist data centre providers are a natural choice for their needs."
City of Liverpool College will use the data centre to launch a new shared service for accelerated transformation of FE organisations, called SharEd. The project is designed to free up staff time to concentrate on services for students.
Phil Dawson, data centre research VP at Gartner, told CBR: "We have two elements [with colleges]: the IT element (the traditional back office) and the operating R&D (research and other projects).
"Ten years ago those departments were working independently from the IT department of the college. Now the R&D department demands more from the IT department, asking for backup recovery, for example.
Dawson added that traditionally colleges have dismissed their users needs for IT. "We have to manage that better."
He said: "Anyone acquiring or partnering [in the education space] – because they have the same B2B challenges others have – have to do that to develop IT. It is an open environment that encourages sharing."
As well as City of Liverpool College current occupiers include University College London (UCL), Kings College London, The Sanger Institute, The Francis Crick Institute, Imperial College London, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Brunel University London are among the organisations due to move in over the next three months.