EBRC and the University of Strasbourg: a winning partnership

EBRC and the University of Strasbourg: a winning partnership
By S. Etienne 25/06/2020
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High service availability, 120 computer racks that can accommodate up to 5,000 servers, a usable surface area of 450 m²: the Data Centre of the University of Strasbourg is the result of an ambitious project initiated in 2013. This state-of-the-art infrastructure, which has been operational since November 2019, aims at providing the university and its institutional and academic partners with a unique hosting facility for their IT equipment and data. The Real Estate Department and the Digital Department called upon EBRC to design and build this highly technical space.

Romaric David, Head of the Data Centre at the University of Strasbourg, recounts the background of this successful partnership.

A partnership forged from the outset of the project

“Given that this was a large-scale project and that it will likely remain the only one of its kind, the University of Strasbourg wanted to get the best help possible and enlisted the advice of a data centre expert. We needed a partner with both certifications and concrete references who could provide us with practical feedback. For a project to be successful, you have to pay attention to a thousand details and we did not have enough experience in this area. EBRC immediately impressed us with the professionalism of its teams and its multiple certifications. In particular, it is the only company in the world to have three Tier IV Data Centres certified by Uptime Institute. For us, this was undoubtedly a guarantee of quality.”

“EBRC has virtually been involved in the project from the outset. The project was carried out in two phases. During the construction phase, the company provided support to the Real Estate Department in the capacity of assistant to the project owner. Practically, EBRC helped design and implement the project. It then took part in the building development phase, which was led by the Digital Department. Its methodology and its stringent requirements enabled us to check that all the functionalities provided for in the specifications were present and in perfect working order.”

A secure, redundant, powerful and green Data Centre

“After six years of intensive work, we are more than satisfied with the result. Although not officially certified, our Data Centre meets the highest international standards in terms of security, redundancy and resilience. Access control is fully secured and all equipment is duplicated as set out in Uptime Institute's Tier III level requirements, ensuring less than 1.6 hours of downtime per year. In addition to its enormous hosting capacity, our Data Centre stands out as having an above-average electrical density. It is powered by two transformer stations that are entirely independent of each other. It has a power of 1.2 megawatts, i.e. an average of 10kW per computer bay with a peak of up to 25-30 kW for some of them. Our research units within the university thus have the necessary capacity for a high-performance computing centre (HPC), which is particularly energy-intensive. This electrical system, supplemented by very high-efficiency inverters and two generators that are immediately operational when needed, was indispensable.”

“Another added value provided by the project is its emphasis on eco-responsibility. Our Data Centre is one of the most energy-efficient in France, with a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.25. The European Commission has also certified that our Data Centre meets the criteria of the Code of Conduct for Energy Efficiency, meeting 190 of the 200 criteria, earning it a European Code of Conduct Award in 2019.

“This award was obtained thanks to the dual innovation of hot and cold air flow containment for the racks in the computer rooms, combined with geothermal energy used for heat exchanges. To achieve this, two wells were drilled in order to capture water from the water table below the building which is then used to cool the Data Centre. The heat produced by the IT equipment is recovered by a heat pump and is used to heat part of the campus, thus optimizing energy use and reducing the carbon footprint.”

In the end, a total success

“Today, after only a few months of operation, we are already reaping the benefits. Our site will soon become one of the regional Data Centres for higher education and research that are in the process of receiving certification. We receive many requests for hosting, not only from the teaching and research world, which is our main target audience, but also from teaching hospitals, engineering schools in Alsace and the private sector. The interest garnered from the private sector is the best proof that our Data Centre is ultimately a success story, particularly as a result of our partnership with EBRC.”

For more information: datacenter.unistra.fr.