Cloud nine!

Mon, 24 Sep 2012 12:19:00 BST

Award for a major computing project in which the University of Huddersfield has taken the lead role

Alan Radley THE University of Huddersfield is playing a key role in a large-scale project that  has earned an award at one of the world’s largest and most prestigious events devoted to the increasingly important field of cloud computing.

The term refers to the sharing of IT services and data across a network, and at the 2012 Cloud Computing World Series, held at London’s Earl’s Court, the award for Best Public Sector Case Study went to YHMAN Ltd, which is a company owned by Yorkshire’s eight universities and is responsible for managing the IT network for education in the region.

YHMAN has been developing a shared data centre, which has the potential to reduce the need for individual universities to maintain centres of their own, leading to potential financial and environmental gains.

Alan Radley (pictured above), Deputy Director of Computing and Library Services at the University of Huddersfield and a member of the YHMAN board of directors, said that among the YHMAN member universities, the University of Huddersfield has taken the single most active role in the trial of services on the shared data centre.

“We understand the business case for sharing data centres to reduce costs and environmental impact and are keen to engage with emerging and innovative technological solutions.”

Cloud Computer World Series Logo Judges at the Cloud Computing World Series Awards stated that the YHMAN project “has the potential to be a real game changer for the public sector and beyond”. 

But Mr Radley stresses that the project is being introduced carefully, avoiding any risk of service disruption or data loss, and so far, after an initial £250,000 investment, it is at a pathfinder, or trial stage.

Linked by a network of underground cables owned by jaNET UK and managed by YHMAN, data centres have been established at the universities of Sheffield, Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan.  The key selling point is that they act as a single centre, so that all of YHMAN’s member institutions can be confident that in the event of a failure of one location, services will transfer to another and become immediately available -   something that is technically and financially prohibitive to most universities.

This is the feature of the YHMAN project that earned the award, said Mr Radley.  Rigorous testing has taken place to ensure that the three centres do function simultaneously and can survive the loss of a single location, despite the distance between them.

So far, the University of Huddersfield has placed an additional copy of its website at the YHMAN centre and is about to commence failover testing to assess the suitability of the YHMAN solution.  As the system proves its robustness, more services will be trialled there.

For the time being, all services and data will continue to be stored by the University of Huddersfield’s own data centres, which have in excess of 400 servers and stores in excess of 100 terabytes of data – an amount that is bound to grow as the University develops its research activities.

There is a possibility that in the future a copy of all University electronic data will be stored by the YHMAN centre, once it is scaled up to meet demand.

“If the large scale project is successful, we will know more as to whether we still need to store data on campus and what benefits in terms of costs and carbon footprint can be realised,” said Mr Radley. 

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