Times Higher Leadership and Management Awards - Loughborough’s ‘hybrid cloud’ and the i2012 project















Regular readers may recall that Loughborough was a finalist in last year's Times Higher Leadership and Management Awards for our Google Apps project.  This year we were shortlisted again in the ICT Initiative of the Year category for "i2012", our project to completely refresh our campus network, telephony and data centre systems and introduce a "hybrid cloud" model.  And we won!

I've put a copy of our submission into this post, and see below for some slides from the recent JANET Cloud Brokerage Conference about this work.  I'd like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to everyone who has been involved in what has been probably our largest IT project ever!



Loughborough’s ‘hybrid cloud’ and the i2012 project



Description

Many Universities are faced with the challenge of replacing 40-year-old data centres. Options include like for like refurbishment, or external hosting/cloud. The former is expensive; the latter may not appeal to risk-averse senior managers.

Loughborough has pioneered a middle way – ‘hybrid cloud’ – that does not require a large up-front building investment, retains agility, and helps reassure risk-averse senior managers over cloud.

Implementation

We have spent a minimum on locally-hosted green ‘mini-pods’ with local capacity to get us through the next 4-5 years, and expansion paths defined for future growth into the public cloud via Janet.

Robust innovations and technologies

Our local cloud is based on the ‘FlexPod’ reference architecture, a certified secure platform. The mirroring of two mini-pods at opposite ends of the large campus ensures high availability and continuity even in serious disaster scenarios.

While we look to host services in the cloud to reduce costs, our long term retention of local capacity provides a cloud exit strategy to avoid the vendor lock-in that leads to poor commercial value.

Loughborough has argued for the provision of transparently-priced utility IT infrastructure services delivered via the Janet network as our ‘national grid for cloud’. We claimed a national first in July 2011, proving this utility model via Janet, by rapidly moving containerised server and storage capacity via Janet between Loughborough and our commercial partner’s data centre in Slough.

Quantified impact on institution
  • £2M up-front building costs saved by avoiding full data centre refurbishment 
  • Over 200 servers, central and departmental, now running on local cloud 
  • Reduction in measured data centre PUE from 2.5 to 1.5 
  • £100K reduction in annual data centre power costs 
  • 600 metric tonnes annual carbon reduction arising 
  • £540K annual IT revenue saving so far
  • Shared ownership throughout institution and improvement on standard practice
This work was driven by an OJEU competitive dialogue tender, with a range of University staff contributing, from COO and Deans to central and departmental IT. A single formal capacity evaluation spanning central and departmental infrastructure cemented the holistic approach.

A final wide consultation around the University led to unprecedented consensus for the holistic approach across a devolved, collegiate organisation, release of funding

Holistic capacity evaluation up-front, and suppliers having to pitch against that hard data, allowed easy like-for-like comparison of tendered price, driving real supplier competition, here leading to a £1M+ vendor level discount and shaved reseller margins
  • Potential benefits in the sector and beyond, and innovative response to challenges 
  • Scaling Loughborough’s model to other Universities looking to replace ailing data centres leads to £100Ms potential savings sector-wide 
  • Further savings may accrue through wide adoption of new utility cloud services as these become cheaper than local hosting 
  • Other organisations connected via the Janet network will be able to share such services, driving further savings throughout the public sector 
  • The sums released become available for reinvestment into innovative research, or improved learning and student experience within the new competitive marketplace

Martin Hamilton

Martin Hamilton works for Jisc in London as their resident Futurist.