This article was written by Andrew Wreford – Rittal’s Product Manager for IT Systems, on its recent project providing solutions for Oxford University’s GLAM Division.
Oxford University‘s Gardens, Libraries and Museums division (GLAM) forms one of the greatest concentrations of university collections in the world. GLAM holds over 21 million objects, specimens and printed items, constituting one of the largest and most significant collections in the world.
Faced with the challenges of
increased data demand, the Museum of Natural History – one of the museums
within GLAM – wanted to upgrade its IT infrastructure to house core network
switches, responsible for running the services. A major rewiring project was
undertaken with the aim of significantly improving the data connectivity for
computers, phones and next generation devices.
The wiring presented a challenge in
itself as the historically significant listed building was not best designed to
accommodate the space for conventional hardware. This required ingenious
methods to work with the fabric of the building.
Faced with these challenges, Anjanesh Babu the technical project lead in the Gardens, Libraries and Museums IT team, researched options available. The traditional approach was for the designated network core of a building to be stripped bare and rebuilt with air conditioning and electrics to meet the requirements for the equipment. However, given the nature of the building, this would present a number of challenges, including space and cooling loss through the surfaces. The design approach was led by GLAM Sustainability strategy.
Anjanesh Babu, Technical Lead for the
Project, approached Rittal’s IT team who quickly identified the “Data Centre in
a Box” (DCiB) concept as a possible option. DCiB replicates the key data centre
capabilities but on a smaller scale and has been developed to enable equipment
to be deployed in non-traditional Data Centre environments. The turnkey package
concept provides IT Racks, demand-orientated climate control, PDU, monitoring
and fire suppression. It provides a complete solution from product selection,
through to installation and ongoing maintenance. When installed in the Museum
of Natural History, the cooling footprint would be significantly lower than the
traditional full-room air conditioning and the absence of any work to the space
to accommodate the system would mean that the building would remain relatively
A site visit by Rittal’s Area Sales
Manager for IT was arranged, and the
requirements gathered. “The system was to be located in the museum’s basement
which had restricted access with very narrow staircase & doorways. In
addition to this, the building’s listed status would mean that any cooling
equipment would have to be positioned cleverly and with the utmost
consideration, not only to aesthetic but to any noise pollution emitted”
The IT Area Sales Manager and members
of the Rittal IT development team, Clive Partridge and Andrew Wreford, worked
with Anjanesh Babu to identify key areas that needed to be achieved. “Given the
kW loads & environment of the proposed location, it became clear that the
DCiB’s LCU option was the best way to go, and we quickly built up a package
including racks, accessories, cooling, fire suppression, PDUs & monitoring.
To mitigate the access restrictions, we used the ‘rack splitting / re-joining’
service which enabled us to resolve the challenge of space limitations of the
project” says Rittal’s Technical IT Manager, Clive Partridge.
Rittal provided an end-to-end
solution from the manufacture of kit, to the installation, commissioning &
hand-over. To overcome the issues with the listed building status, Rittal’s IT
team worked in collaboration with Babu and the lead contractor, Monard
Electrical, to find a suitable home for the condenser.
Technical project lead from GLAM,
Anjanesh Babu, reflected on the options deployed: “RIttal’s DCiB allowed the
museum to utilise the proposed location without having to make costly building
modifications, thus saving time, energy and effort.”
By adopting “in-rack” precision
cooling instead of “in-room” cooling, the location is more environmentally
efficient and this controls operational expenditure. Cooling via the
high-performance LCU option provides temperature consistency, allows better
care of their equipment along with nearly silent operations.
Not only is the installation
providing energy efficiency and longevity for the museum, there is the added
benefit of noise reduction in the room compared to an existing server room
utilising in-room cooling.
Haas Ezzet, Head of IT Gardens and
Museums (GLAM) at the University of Oxford, contextualises this piece of work
as being part of the “Museum’s drive towards greater environmental
sustainability. The approach piloted here, of focussing climate control
specifically to the area needed, the data cabinet, rather than the entire space
in which it is house, will optimise energy consumption and afford a blueprint
for other spaces within GLAM and beyond.”