Melbourne uni eyes cloud use for data hall

Summary:The University of Melbourne is in the final stages of completing a second research-focused datacentre hall on its main campus, which will cater for not only its own researchers but potentially add to a national research cloud.

The University of Melbourne is in the final stages of completing a second research-focused datacentre hall on its main campus, which will cater for not only its own researchers but potentially add to a national research cloud.

The university is in the process of installing network equipment in the new Data Hall 2, which will open before the end of this year. It extends the university's first 380m² Data Hall 1 by about 440m², but, unlike the existing hall, it will be used as a high-density, high-performance, virtualised environment.

The university's director of infrastructure services, Peter Sack, said the first data hall will be kept for more low-density use in terms of heat and cooling.

Sack said that although the floor space in Data Hall 1 had been completely used, the racks in the hall weren't because the first data hall didn't have the cooling systems required to support any additional equipment. By moving high-density services to the new data hall, lower-density services that don't have such high cooling requirements could be used to fill Data Hall 1.

"Storage can go in there because storage typically doesn't require lots of cooling — tape storage and the like. Our research equipment that's in Data Hall 1 will move into Data Hall 2," he said.

He said that the university had required more high-density services over the last 18 months.

"When we first did our datacentre strategy, we weren't really aware of just how large this demand was going to be or potentially going to be," he said.

Yet he wasn't willing to use the cloud to manage the change, saying that although it made sense for email (the university's student mailboxes are on Google Mail and Sack felt moving the staff from Microsoft Exchange 2010 would be seamless) it didn't make sense for other applications.

"Some of the equipment and services that the university has can be a little bit specialised, so not all cloud services are suitable, but some do make absolute sense."

However, given that the university now has a brand new data hall, which can be used just for high-density and specialised research, the university is looking at ways the hall can become a pseudo-cloud provider for other research institutes.

"On the national front, there is a whole research cloud initiative occurring, the NeCTAR (National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources) project and there's a RDSI (Research Data Storage Infrastructure) project. The aim is to create a service available on a national level for all researchers.

"In so far as storage goes, the RDSI project to create this research storage cloud capability is still very much in the planning and development stage, but our university is deploying significant volume of storage that is suitable for researchers mainly. We are currently deploying that capability that we will use for multiple purposes — one, to provide some services to our own researchers, but, two, to be a potential addition into this research storage cloud service."

Under a research cloud service, universities would combine their infrastructure in the form of centrally managed or controlled nodes.

"We've already commenced in what's called a national server platform where we are one node and we are actually leading that particular program where there will be nodes of virtualised servers available for researchers for a number of purposes.

"We potentially could house part of the storage equipment that forms that cloud. That's where this whole push in the research area is to provide greater accessibility for this specialised equipment by the universities or organisations themselves owning and running that equipment and then, for a fee, leasing it out or making it available to other researchers."

Topics: Cloud

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A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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