Vertiv enables top UK university to continue educating the next generation

Vertiv enables top UK university to continue educating the next generation

The University of Southampton wanted to enable high power computing (HPC) performance alongside more repetitive processing tasks, while maintaining maximum power control and efficiency across these varied load profiles. Mike Powell, Data Centre Manager at the university discusses how Vertiv offered an easily deployable, enterprise-class solution which met the institution’s requirements, meaning it is able to benefit from a higher performance and more reliable IT infrastructure.

The University of Southampton is one of the UK’s top 20 research universities. Beyond its extensive curriculum of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, the university is a world leader in a significant range of disciplines. Through its innovative approach to research, the institution has produced ground-breaking findings across numerous fields from ocean exploration to understanding the Internet and from sustainable energy to finding medical solutions to major diseases. It also boasts a growing portfolio of successful spin-out companies, created as a result of these research activities.

Vertiv provided the university with three Liebert Trinergy UPS with a total of 1,600 kVA capacity. Provisioning for day one requirements rather than predicted growth wasn’t a lack of foresight on the university’s part; instead, this enabled careful management of the initial capital expenditure thanks to the Liebert Trinergy UPS’s modular nature. The three dimensions of modularity (Vertical, Horizontal, Orthogonal) that the Liebert Trinergy UPS features, allow the university to expand its power protection needs at the same pace as changing load requirements by simply adding additional power modules. Put simply, the power requirements of the new facility have been future-proofed.


Supporting the University of Southampton’s exceptional research and entrepreneurial performance is a committed and forward-thinking IT department – iSolutions. The iSolutions team serves over 300 individual IT services, as well as approximately 6,000 staff and 1,400 student workstations. Above and beyond this core IT support, the university has created its Infrastructure Investment Programme (IIP) which allows iSolutions to take a proactive approach to investments in new technology, network architecture and its data centre.

A national example

As the university’s IT demands increase, iSolutions is working to ensure continuity of a secure, sustainable and available infrastructure. A major part of this ongoing programme is the investment in a new data centre.

The project is garnering significant interest from educational institutions across the country; its careful balance of the need for high performance and environmental accountability will stand as a blueprint for subsequent such developments. Built on a brownfield site, the university’s data centre is symbolic of a new era of higher performance, more efficient IT. Creating the right facility, with suitable power, cooling, connectivity and redundancy, required a comprehensive understanding of the technology available within the market. Working collaboratively with the University of Southampton team, Vertiv became involved in this process at an early stage.

Reduced environmental and financial footprint

“The challenge was clear: how could we enable high power computing (HPC) performance alongside more repetitive processing tasks, while maintaining maximum power control and efficiency across these varied load profiles?” said Mike Powell, Data Centre Manager at the University of Southampton. Powell recognised that the new facility posed some difficult questions for technology providers. Vertiv was able to step in with an immediate resolution, offering an easily deployable, enterprise-class solution which met the university’s requirements exactly: the Liebert Trinergy UPS. The University of Southampton showed more than just an academic interest in its smart solutions to complex problems. When the iSolutions team reviewed the capabilities of the Liebert Trinergy UPS, they were impressed by its delivery of a number of ‘industry-firsts’.

A greener university

The university has committed to a 20% reduction in energy usage against a baseline level set in 2005/6 and so efficiency was a primary consideration within the procurement process for the facility.

Simplifying the technology challenge

The development of the facility demanded a wide array of technologies to operate in harmony – generators, air conditioning, UPS, lighting and the compute capabilities that would form the heart of the data centre.

“Vertiv’s extensive data centre experience proved incredibly useful as we built this complex collage of efficient, high-performance technologies,” said Powell.

“Now the Liebert Trinergy UPS units that sit at the core of our data centre ensure we have reliable, efficient power management and protection. The clever combinations of performance and serviceability mean that we’re actually guaranteed 100% uptime. This, combined with the unparalleled energy efficiency, has been invaluable in meeting our objectives.”

Vertiv Life Services

With the wide variety of user requirements, accentuated by the research department’s HPC requirements, it is essential that the university’s critical power protection system is maintained in an optimum state of readiness at all times. Vertiv Life Services enable remote diagnostics which deliver proactive equipment maintenance and reduced downtime. The service provides early warning of UPS and single module alarm conditions and out of tolerances, which in real terms means that the University of Southampton benefits from effective, proactive maintenance and fast incident response.

A successful new environment

The university’s data centre has met and exceeded the key success factors that were outlined at the commencement of the project. iSolutions is proud to have delivered a high-performance facility that will enable the university to continually expand its research capabilities. Critically, the data centre also has admirable environmental and financial credibility.

“The cost and energy savings we’ve made through our Liebert Trinergy systems surpassed all expectations and consequently the entire university is benefitting from a higher performance and a more reliable IT infrastructure,” said Powell.

We caught up with Mike Powell, Data Centre Manager at the University of Southampton, who talks us through the implementation in further detail and outlines some of the major benefits.   

Can you tell us about your role at the University of Southampton and what this entails?

I head up a team that looks after the data centre estate for the University of Southampton, which also includes the mission critical data network hub room estate. So we have two data centres – one off site and one on site – and we have a current status of 240+ rooms in our data centre network estate which we’re responsible for. Facts and figures about the university include: we have about 22,000 students; we have an annual turnover excess of £400 million; and we have about 5,000 members of staff to support those students and that university operation.

It seems the project has been ongoing for some time – can you provide an update of where you’re at now and how far you’ve come since it commenced?  

We first engaged with Vertiv in 2012 when we were looking to select UPS sets for our primary data centre fit out and it was very clear at the time that Vertiv had an offering of the highly efficient UPS systems – Liebert Trinergy – which we ended up opting for. We have those predominantly in our data centres on the off-site and on the on-site of the campus to protect all those services.

Following on from the go-live in 2013, we started to rollout the Vertiv UPS sets in a number of our core Edge rooms and our key network Edge rooms across our estate that deliver service finally to our staff and students within the buildings.

So we’ve been partnering with Vertiv now for the last 10 years, but recently we’ve also had an opportunity to replace our data centre infrastructure management toolset, which looks after key things like physical security, environmental conditions within our data centres and our critical equipment rooms and through some soft market testing, we actually ended up choosing the Vertiv Environet Alert solution. That’s currently being deployed to all our network hub rooms and we’re now rolling it out into both of our data centres.

What sustainability/energy efficiency benefits have you seen since the implementation and how important is this to the university?

As part of the initial review of data centre UPS sets, we were looking to optimise the efficiency of a UPS. If you imagine the amount of power that goes through a UPS, any small saving you can make makes a massive saving on carbon reduction. So the Liebert Trinergy at the time we chose those were the best UPS for efficiency in its class, being able to operate in three different modes of energy efficiency, and that’s rolled on basically to try to optimise the UPS sets we choose for the rest of our estate based on the high energy efficiency they offer.

How valuable is guaranteed uptime for an education institution and how has this allowed you to meet your business objectives?

Business Continuity for the university is different than a bank, for example. However, in my view it is as important – we’re educating the next generation of doctors, scientists and many other disciplines and we try to view the teaching spaces as production rooms/spaces, because some of those lectures can’t be repeated if the IT stops working or the audio-visual stops working. So it’s really important that we maintain the continuity of services to allow the research that we carry out and the learning and teaching we carry out within our organisation.

What does the future hold for the university and its partnership with Vertiv?

One of the great features that we have buying the Vertiv product is the backup for the Vertiv Life Services, which is 24/7 monitoring of all the equipment supplied by Vertiv and operated by the university in remote control centres. So going forward, we have a roadmap that says we’re rolling out more of the Environet Alert solution for room monitoring and we’ll continue to work with Vertiv so that it can protect our service continuity to our community for the forthcoming future.

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