A safe home for university data
The ZHAW has grown rapidly in recent years – in terms of both students and data volume. Picture: Stefan Kubli
The ZHAW (Zurich University of Applied Sciences) has grown rapidly in recent years – in terms of both students and data volume. By moving its primary data center to two DataHub Private Rooms, the ZHAW has hugely increased the availability and security of its data.
The ZHAW (or rather its predecessor) had just 4,400 students when Stefan Sandri joined the IT team. Today, 12 years later, there are around 12,000 undergraduates, 6,000 postgraduates and 3,000 employees. «Not only the number of students, but also the IT infrastructure and volume of data have grown rapidly. At the same time, the requirements relating to availability and security have risen substantially», explains Stefan Sandri, Head of Data & Voice Communications at the ZHAW.«It was a very challenging time. Our retrofitting measures were almost unable to keep pace.»
Data center infrastructure not a core competence
The most important task carried out by Sandri’s team is the maintenance and development of the ZHAW’s IT network and network services. No easy task in a university that comprises more than 60 buildings at the Winterthur, Zurich and Wädenswil sites. After a – fortunately minor – incident in the summer of 2012, when the primary data center failed in the holiday period, the ZHAW drew up a new data center strategy. The main idea was to move the primary data center to a specialist in the Winterthur region and sustainably retrofit its secondary data center.
A new data center for the ZHAW
The ZHAW also clarified with Hans Jörg Rütsche and Peter Gorini from DC ONE AG whether they knew of a partner for the external data center. However, the two data center experts could not find a partner to meet the customer requirements in the Winterthur area. They therefore made a bold decision and simply built their own data center in Winterthur. DataHub AG was born and opened its own first «data safe» in the autumn of 2015: DataHub Winterthur. Rütsche and Gorini contributed their many years of experience to the building – it meets the Tier III+ standard and is state-of-the-art in practically every respect.
Two Private Rooms rented
According to Stefan Sandri, the IT migration ran smoothly. The first servers were moved to the two Private Rooms in February 2016, and the remaining ones followed in July.«As in every data center project, the ZHAW had its own high requirements. With a mutual understanding and open, professional communication, we were able to seamlessly implement the ZHAW’s new strategy», explains Hans Jörg Rütsche, COO at DataHub AG. The ZHAW houses the server and storage infrastructure of the central ICT department in one Private Room. The other accommodates various internal departments. Both Private Rooms have a standardised interior with the tried and trusted hot aisle containment system from Schneider Electric. DataHub Winterthur achieves an excellent PUE value of 1.3. This is made possible thanks to the highly efficient cooling equipment and a newly developed free cooling concept with the inclusion of generator cooling in the heat exchanger.«Maximum possible energy efficiency was our aim from the outset», explains Peter Gorini, Chief Marketing Officer at DataHub. «Because with every unused kilowatt hour of electricity, the ZHAW saves money.»
«I can sleep soundly again»
«IT operation on an organisation’s own premises requires specialist knowledge in many areas, ties up a lot of staff and requires substitutes», says Sandri. «It is also relatively expensive if, like us, you need a state-of-the-art infrastructure.» On balance, he sees the outsourcing to DataHub Winterthur as positive. «We no longer need to concern ourselves with the operation, monitoring and life cycle of the energy supply, cooling and security, or capacity planning. Our new data center is running perfectly, and thanks to DataHub, the infrastructure is always state-of-the-art. I can now sleep more soundly again, and my team and I can focus on our strategic tasks.» The ZHAW is currently introducing UCC telephony for all 3000 employees, the core network is being upgraded and WLAN comprehensively expanded. Of course, this also includes e-mail, e-learning, memory and network access for students – at all times, around the clock.
«Thanks to the outsourcing to DataHub, our data center is always state-of-the-art. I can now sleep soundly again and my team and I can focus on our strategic tasks.»
Stefan Sandri, Head of Data & Voice Communications at the ZHAW
Private Room solution in detail
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