Explosive business growth has caught up with Open Universities Australia which has used a combination of blade servers, water cooling and virtualisation to save its in-house data centre and a million dollar outsourcing contract.
Open Universities Australia (OUA) manager of information and learning technologies Anthony Russo said in 2003 the company designed and built a server room to prepare for 10 years of growth, but with a few years “everything went nuts”.
“The company went from 5 to 10 per cent growth to 80 per cent growth and these were not the projections I based my server room on,” Russo said.
“I found out that by 2009 we would be in trouble. And discovered I needed to double the size of our server room.”
The cost of outsourcing the data centre operations estimated to be one million per year, but the physical limitations of the Melbourne offices were also apparent.
“We also needed to double the computing power and cooling and may have been in trouble with load bearing and the building’s power [allocation],” Russo said, adding if the weight of the server room doubled “we would probably meet our neighbours down stairs”.
To buy some time, Russo’s team started adopting virtualization in 2006, which “helped a lot”, but wasn’t going to be a long term solution. “It was putting the inevitable off”.
OUA looked around for a solution and contracted IBM to design a new server room. With more virtualisation and HP blade servers, IBM recommended APC’s in-row coolers with water-based chillers on the roof and water-based cooling in the server room.
The server room was using 133 Amps and even now uses 128 Amps only, despite doubling in size.
The main ROI is not having to go off site, but the power saving is another aspect.
“It would have [otherwise] been 260 Amps and the company is very keen to go green,” Russo said. “These are small and can cool the entire rack. Being green was also great as the company wanted to go down that path.”
The new capacity is planned to last until 2015. Eventually OUA will have to go off-site, but this isn't necessary for the time being.
The server infrastructure consists of 70 physical and 30 virtual servers.
“In the longer term we probably won’t have a choice but for now outsourcing is still more expensive than in-house,” Russo said.
“We can use new servers, but vendors are not making that easier as software vendors are charging on CPU core count.”
OUA runs an IBM portal, Oracle-PeopleSoft for CRM, and campus information systems. Its core apps run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Oracle RAC.
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