National data centre for academics goes live

The UK’s first shared hub for medical and academic research will initially serve six scientific and academic organisations

September 4, 2014

A £900,000 national data centre designed to support the research requirements of academics has been launched.

Funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Jisc data centre will initially serve a consortium of six scientific and academic organisations in the UK. It is the country’s first shared data centre for medical and academic research.

The university partners are all based in London: University College London, King’s College London, the London School of Economics and Queen Mary University of London. Completing the sextet are the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, which conducts genomics and genetics research, and the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre under construction in London.

Despite the initial cluster of organisations being based in the South, Jisc says that the facility is available to universities across the UK. It claims that by moving some or all data storage to an off-campus centre, institutions are able to “free up time to spend on core business activities”. The cost to universities is dependent on the user needs and the amount of space required.

Tim Marshall, executive director of Jisc technologies and chief executive of its research computer network Janet, explained that the shared data centre allows users to consolidate sensitive data “in one safe environment” while “saving money both in terms of their operational costs and by not having to repeatedly procure facilities”.

The centre will cover a space equivalent to nearly 10 tennis courts. It will hold 403,200 terabytes of data, roughly equivalent to more than 100 billion MP3 files, or 787,500 new top-spec MacBook Pro computers.

It will be operated from Slough, Berkshire, by specialist data centre provider Infinity. Institutions will connect to the data centre using the £30 million Janet6 network, which was launched last year.

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