Data Centre Relocation

by Manfred Chan

The Primary Data Centre at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) will be relocated to make room for several strategic initiatives and the setting up of additional web laboratories.  The Primary Data Centre relocation project is divided into two phases: the first phase is scheduled to complete by the end of Q1 of 2020, while the second phase is expected to be completed by Q1 of 2021.

The current data centre was set up when the building was constructed in 1989.  General data centre requirements such as cooling capacity, floor loading, fire services, physical security, raised floor, uninterrupted power supplies (UPS), dual source electric power supply were all well thought out during the design phase.  Therefore, as of today, CityU has been renowned for its IT development, setup and leadership in many fronts.​

Along with CityU’s development, a Disaster Recovery (DR) site has also been built to serve as a backup site for the primary data centre in another building.  This will remain unchanged for years to come.

Relocating the primary data centre is a high-risk and daunting task.  Many online services, as well as inter-connections among scattered hub rooms and departmental server rooms, are required to be rebuilt or migrated to another data centre with minimal downtime.  This has posed big challenges to the Computing Services Centre (CSC), which currently manages the entire university's IT infrastructure.  The CSC has considered the followings when the decision was made:

  1. To find a new server room that can comply with the modern data centre requirements with minimum renovation work similar to the one shown below;​
  2. To reduce the downtime for all critical services during the service migration;
  3. To minimise the number of physical servers required to run all the workloads in the existing data centres;
  4. To relocate the IT support staff closer to the data centre at its new locale;
  5. To modernize and redesign the architecture for many legacy systems;
  6. To shorten service provisioning time using the new setup

The CSC had reviewed many options on the main campus as well as off-campus, and finally decided to upgrade the existing server room to become the Primary Data Centre for CityU.  With the collaborative effort from the existing users (ACIM, COM, and CS), sufficient space is freed up in the server room for the setup of the Central Server cluster and High-Performance Computing cluster, as well as room for future expansion.

As a result of this exercise, around 800 m2 of space has been made available for use by the University.  Since there will be additional equipment to be installed, and the new primary data centre is only one sixth the size of the original data centre, a high-density and hyper-converged architecture (Ref: Network Computing Issue 98 – December 2018​)  is adopted, with related building services such as electricity, uninterrupted power supply, and fire services being upgraded to address the rising needs of the data centre.

The renovation work was already started in February 2019 and scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019.  Relocation of physical servers and virtualized servers in the first phase will begin as soon as the renovation is finished, which is expected to complete in 2020.

While the relocation may be affecting some of the services, the CSC aims to shorten the downtime as far as possible, thus minimising the amount of interruptions to all users.