King's College, UCL and LSE back £900,000 national datacentre project

A consortium of universities, including LSE, UCL and King's College, is backing a national datacentre for academics

A consortium of universities, including University College London (UCL), King's College, the Sanger Institute, the Francis Crick Institute, the LSE and Queen Mary University of London, is backing a datacentre project that will open up high-performance computing (HPC) to researchers at a reasonable price.

The national datacentre is being funded with £900,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and was brokered by public education body Jisc. It is the UK’s first ever shared-services datacentre for academic and medical research.

Jisc has entered into a five-year agreement with datacentre specialist Infinity to provide the shared-services facility to support the requirements for academic research.

The datacentre, which will go live this month in Slough, will be connected to Janet, the UK’s national research and education network, thus facilitating access, reducing costs and meeting the bandwidth requirements of large datasets.

“As space becomes premium on campus, this is a significant step on the journey to the cloud and, already, indications are that this will be a major breakthrough for the UK education and research community,” said Tim Marshall, executive director of Jisc technologies and chief executive of Janet.

The consortium, comprising the six institutions, will grow over time as other institutions accept the importance of a shared datacentre and the benefits of IT clustering as integral to future UK research, according to the HEFCE.

The datacentre will allow the research community to share huge swathes of data, helping to push the traditional boundaries of teaching, learning and research methods.  

“The funding has opened up high-performance computing at a reasonable price, meeting the university requirement for such leading-edge facilities and addressing the government's key objective of improving research,” said HEFCE director David Sweeney.

The Slough facility becomes the first large-scale example of high-performance computer environments being placed in an outsourced co-location facility. 

The work that the education and research sectors do can be life-changing, and the technology used will further the UK’s position as a global leader in medical and academic research, said Infinity chief executive Stuart Sutton.

The national datacentre will host more than 800 racks of capacity to improve speed and quality of UK research.

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