University data centre outage affects thousands

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University data centre outage affects thousands
Tamaki data centre being installed. Source: UoA

Generator testing mishap and 'bad timing'.

Bad timing and a generator testing mishap conspired to take down the data centre operated by New Zealand's largest university, leaving thousands of students without access to several core services for much of yesterday.

The outage happened yesterday morning after the generators at the University of Auckland's central city data centre were tested and failed, the chief information officer of the academic institution, Stephen Whiteside, told iTNews.

"We are operating in disaster recovery mode having switched over to our second data centre," Whiteside said.

"It's a case of bad timing as we are in the process of migrating services to our new Tamaki data centre and due to this, our network configuration is more complicated than normal".

Library systems, online student services, websites and administrative facilities as well as email were all affected for much of yesterday and are being progressively restored.

Phone systems also went down and the outage affected the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) as well.

Whiteside expects the restoration of services to be complete today, and adds that the disruption has impacted a large number of users. 

The university is looking at ways to prevent future outages like the one yesterday.

"Third party reviews of the electrical set up have been undertaken and we want to simplify our configuration.

"For now however, our priority is to ensure that the services are stable," Whiteside said.

The academic facility and the Auckland University of Technology have around 71,000 students and 7000 staff combined.

Currently, the university is operating two data centres in Auckland with a third one being close to completion in Tamaki.

The latter facility will provide redundancy for the main central city data centre, as the existing back-up facility needs an upgrade, according to the university's information technology services director, Liz Coulter.

The Tamaki data centre will also house the National e-Science Infrastructure supercomputers, and connect to the university's other facilities with a ten gigabit per second fibre optic network.

Thanks to a more efficient cooling system using some natural ventilation, the university expects the Tamaki data centre to use about half the amount of power its present facility does.

The new data centre has 85 equipment racks with 15 kW capacity each and an expected power usage efficiency rating of 1.4.

It has a total generator capacity of 2.4 mW and 1.2 mW of cooling capacity and is designed for "lights out" remote operation.

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