Did you Notice?

Sometimes the greatest successes are the ones which go largely un-noticed. I reminded you last week about the work that was taking place this past weekend to move our Faculty of Health and Social Care datacentre across to the new shared datacentre at the University of Aberdeen. I’m pleased to say that the work went very well and that all the servers were successfully relocated and are now operating in the new datacentre with little disruption over the weekend.

Yes, there were plenty of glitches along the way but the team had, and used, plans “B” and “C” along the way and successfully overcame all the critical problems. For most of the weekend, the University was running on just one datacentre instead of the normal two. Thanks to much work over the past several years, however, all our critical services continued to operate as normal over the weekend with just the occasional short pause when things were being restarted. E-mail, web site, Moodle VLE, My Apps etc were all working over the weekend. A few pieces of hardware had problems starting up, but thanks to the use of “virtualisation” technology we were able to just move the “virtual” servers onto other hardware and continue services as normal until the faulty hardware is repaired.

My thanks and well done to all those involved from IT Services!

    OLD DATA CENTRE

server1
The First Items to be removed from the Old Data Centre.

server2
Server No. 7 on its way out.

server3
1 engineer happy to be found amongst the cables.

server4
Lets get some bubble wrap around server No. 16

server5
35 Servers, 2 large Tape Libraries all wrapped up and ready to go.

    NEW DATA CENTRE

server6
Where did I put that server?
(It’s behind you mate).

server7
A collection of worried engineers.

server8
A nice collection of cables.
(Connected at Last)

Paper

This is an update on the proposed arrangements for staff and student printing across the Campus from August. Some time ago, I wrote a post to outline our new strategy, and another one about the suggested choice of paper.

As a reminder, over the past couple of years we have been moving towards a new print strategy based around using the Canon multi function devices (MFD’s) across the Campus, and the “print@RGU” facility. By the end of August, we will also have moved all student printing across to Canon so that for the first time all staff and students are using the same print fleet.

As part of this move, we have been looking at the type of paper being used. Since staff and students are sharing the same print fleet and can print from any printer, we need to standardise on a single grade of paper to be used across the Campus to avoid confusion and additional costs. A recycled grade of paper has been trialled for a while and is currently in use by staff across a number of Schools and Departments. However, feedback from students was that for various (good) reasons they wished to have a grade of paper that was white and it is not therefore possible to use the current choice of recycled grade as standard grade of paper across the institution.

The Print Strategy Steering Group has considered this at length and has concluded that the best choice of paper in the first instance is not a recycled grade but a grade of “everyday” white paper which is sourced from sustainable forests. This still ensures that we are taking into account environmental considerations with regard to our paper choice, but will allow us to move to a shared fleet of staff and student printers without the added complications of trying to finalise a choice of recycled paper at the same time. It is also a grade of paper which can be used by the Gatehouse (our central printing department) and therefore means that all standard printing across the University will be using the same grade of paper.

Once the operation of the new print fleet has settled down, it will still be our intention to revisit the paper choice and evaluate in a more measured way the potential to use a recycled grade of paper as our core standard across the University.

A user group has been set up to look at the operation of the new print fleet, and arrangements for replenishment of toner and paper, and any updated guidance / procedures will be advised to staff as soon as they are finalised.

Update on “Riverside East” IT

I’ve written a couple of posts {here and here} about the work involved in providing the IT facilities in the new Riverside East building and this is just by way of an update.

As I mentioned previously, the main priority is to ensure that the supporting IT network cabling and equipment is ready in time for each move into the building. There has been other final construction and snagging work taking place in the building at the same time, but IT staff have been able to work with this and get the IT desktop kit, networks and phones ready in time for the Library, School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, School of Engineering, and the “IDEAS” (Innovation, Design And Sustainability) Research Institute all of whom have now moved in to the building. The next School to move will be the School of Computing at the end of the week.

There is a core group of IT staff involved in these activities, and we have to schedule their work over the next two months to meet both the occupancy schedule of new / refurbished buildings and other important IT priorities elsewhere in the University. Their overall priorities over July/August are as follows:

1) Moving the School of Computing into Riverside East.
2) The datacentre move. Over the next two weeks, many of the same IT staff will be busy with the datacentre move which we have to give priority to so that it is complete ahead of resits and the start of Semester.
3) Completing all the network resilience in Riverside East.
4) Commissioning the WiFi system in Riverside East.
5) Working with suppliers to complete the Audio Visual fitout of all the teaching spaces in Riverside East.
6) Commissioning the IT networks and AV facilities which are part of the refurbishment of Aberdeen Business School.

I know that many of you are keen to see the WiFi system operational in the new building, and IT staff will fit that in as soon as they can, but they have to focus on some of the other work first to allow others to meet key deadlines, and to protect the overall Campus IT infrastructure. Will keep you posted!

Student Email is moving to Office 365

The student e-mail service at RGU is provided by Microsoft, to date under their “Live@Edu” platform – many other Universities also use this platform – it gives students a high capacity e-mail account, and access to additional features such as the “SkyDrive” and associated web versions of Microsoft Office. As part of Microsoft’s global product and service upgrades they are migrating this service onto the Office 365 platform. We’ve agreed the migration date with Microsoft and the migration itself starts tomorrow. If you are a student, hopefully you will have seen the information notices, but if not you will find more information here.

Please check this and make sure you follow any revised instructions to access the new service. Note that passwords for the e-mail part of the service are now going to be managed separately from the passwords for Skydrive!

You’ll see that the look and feel of the web mail service will change. The first part of the migration will bring all students across to Office 365 on to the “Office 2010” web version. Once they have all been migrated to this, they will be moved by Microsoft to the “Office 2013” version.

The first part of the migration starts tomorrow, but students will be moved over a period of 5 days. This is the standard approach from Microsoft because of the volume of users, so please read the instructions so that you know how to access the new service once your account has been migrated.

Moving Datacentre – next two weeks

There have been a couple of postings about moving our servers into a new datacentre (Green ICT, How to Move 160 Servers). Well, now the time has come! As a reminder, we plan to move all of our servers out of the Faculty of Health and Social Care Server room into a refurbished datacentre shared with the University of Aberdeen and Aberdeen College. Over the past few months IT Services staff have been preparing the ground, making sure that the network connections are all working and that the services being moved are ready. Some of this work is highly specialised – one of the essential components to link the network had not been properly configured and had to be returned to Japan for further work, a round trip of 3 weeks. IT Services did also find that the configuration of some services had to be changed to allow them to operate in the new datacentre, and you will have seen a few small outages to allow these services to be updated.

The moves are going to happen over the next 2 weeks. ITS are not moving everything in one go, but will carry out the move in 2 or 3 stages. Some of the services ITS will be able to move without any downtime at all, some will require some downtime which is unavoidable.

The first batch are going to move this week, but the main move is planned to be the weekend of 27th July. That weekend in particular will be a substantial move and there is likely to be some downtime over the weekend, so do keep an eye on the information notices which will be issued and plan your work and studies around this.

Once this is complete, we will have removed a significant risk from our IT infrastructure by being able to decommission the old server room (see When Things Get Hot). We will also greatly improve our environmental credentials. One key measure for datacentres is “Power Usage Effectiveness”, or PUE. This is a measure of the total amount of power used by the datacentre, divided by the raw power used just by the servers – and the reason this figure is important is that older datacentres use a lot of extra power just to keep the servers cool. So, for example, if you have servers consuming 100kW of power, and if you need another 100kW of air conditioning to keep them cool, then the datacentre is using 200kW of power in total. The PUE is 200/100 = 2. We want a figure which is as close to 1 as possible – the lower the better.

In the shared datacentre we’re aiming for an average PUE of 1.2 or less, and have already reached figures as low as 1.08 at times which means we are using much less additional power to cool the servers. That sort of figure is close to Facebook’s big new datacentre in Sweden  and we anticipate we will reduce our carbon output by around 230,000 Kg per annum.