The University, which caters to some 45,000 students, will run both centres in an ‘active-active' configuration, instead of the existing ‘primary-secondary' set-up.
This means the two centres will operate as a single logical data centre across two physical sites, rather than have one data centre act as the ‘main' and have a second used only for disaster recovery (DR) purposes.
The two sites are to be connected by redundant 1-2 Gbps fibre paths using the VERNet network.
Although part of the "incentive" to build the new 100 square metre facility in Sunshine, approximately 11km away, was initially DR, it is also intended the new facility will form part of energy efficiency initiatives being rolled out across the institution, according to director of information technology services Phil County.
IBM has been contracted to design and build the Sunshine data centre. It will replace an end-of-life secondary facility located at Footscray Park.
Arrangements for re-development of the primary facility, also in Footscray Park and currently the University's main data centre, haven't been announced.
"We've got one main data centre at the moment that we're keeping but will be rebuilt inside and out," County said.
"We've also got a smaller one like a back-up that is going to be replaced by the new [IBM-designed] one."
IBM said it had adopted a modular design employing a combination of in-row cooling targeted at the heat load source, combined with free cooling chiller plant technology.
Smaller uninterruptible power supply (UPS) modules will be used in the design, according to Malcolm Mackay, executive for site and facilities services at IBM Australia.
The University is one of the first in Australia to implement a free cooling system. Fujitsu has previously announced its intention to run a similar set-up in its new data centre in Perth.
The free cooling system will only cut in when the outside temperature in Melbourne drops under 15°C.
"It'll do it automatically," County said.
The data centre is also being designed to maximise air flows and floor grate positioning in a hot/cold aisle configuration.
Although IBM admitted the free cooling system would add a premium to the cost of the centre, County believed the return on investment was there.
"It pays itself back within the first year in our situation," he said.
The new combined total of data centre floor space in the facilities will be 340 square metres.
County said the University had already rationalised some 350 servers down to 240 using VMware as part of a previous server centralisation project, but he was unsure the University would continue down this path with respect to further virtualisation in the centres.
Both Microsoft's Hyper-V and Xensource are understood to be being considered as alternatives, given the University's reliance on Unix, Linux and Windows systems.
County said he is also actively exploring cloud computing.
"If you want to provision something that isn't critical it doesn't always have to be in your own data centre," he said.