Salford University CIO puts chemistry before tech

University of Salford tech chief Derek Drury says the IT team is what really counts...

...the most out of the new datacentre facilities.

Upgrades include a new network for the Media City campus in Salford Quays, the eventual location of much of the BBC's operations. With a lot of media data being moved around this particular campus, a 10Gbps network has been put in place.

Although not the main objective of the project, the university planned a reduction in carbon emissions and energy use into the project. "Well you can imagine with 300 individual servers, we were burning power like there was no tomorrow," Drury said.

The university's carbon-management team predict the new, more efficient infrastructure will save between £150,000 and £200,000 per year in energy costs compared with the old set-up.

The University of Salford's Media City campus has a new high-speed network

Salford's campus at Media City has a new high-speed network to make the most of its datacentre infrastructurePhoto: Peel Media

Most of the physical kit is now in place in the two datacentres and Drury's team will soon take control of the hardware and start the process of migrating its 106 applications onto the infrastructure.

This migration process should be completed by the end of August and the new platform available for the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year.

Providing new services

The new infrastructure puts the university on "a very firm footing going forward", according to Drury, allowing it to provide services that were previously limited. "There's a lot in our strategy that is predicated on having that infrastructure in place," he said.

"It will enable [us to have] the student services - particularly in mobile learning and distance learning - that we need to put in because of the changes in expectations of the students but also in terms of the climate. There will be more people who want to stay at home and learn and we'll have to address that," he added.

Drury said the expectation of users has risen in terms of access to services - which range between digital content capture, lecture streaming and videoconferencing - on any device, anywhere and anytime. "So we have to be in a place where we can deliver this stuff," he said.

The use of collaborative tools such as SharePoint, wikis and blogs will also become more commonplace in the university due to the increased capability of the infrastructure.

SharePoint will initially be used for more business-related tasks but will become integrated into the technology students use next year. The university already uses Microsoft's Live@Edu webmail which features some aspects of SharePoint.

"It gives us a new platform to work off. What it does is it gives us a nice open platform on which we can build this stuff, because we've put it in with this sort of thing in mind," Drury said.

The new infrastructure – and particularly the fact that it's virtualised - should also boost what the university research departments can do.

"The great thing about having virtual technology is if a researcher wants a particular server with so much space, rather than having to go out and buy one, I can give them one at lunchtime because we can just build one on the infrastructure. And when [the researcher has] finished, I can have the resource back. It makes it far more flexible for us," he added.

Researchers are able to request test areas within the datacentre separated from other parts of the infrastructure, allowing the IT department to...