Well, here we are at the brand spanking new campus of Queen Margaret University up in Beautiful Edinburgh, for the second of the Suste-IT project workshops. This one is called “New Ways of Working”.
Peter James is up first – an introduction to the issues around flexible and location independent working. Do you use your car more for other thing, as you don’t use it for commuting? If you are working from home, do you use the local shops and services more? Do you get involved more in local activities?
Big case study at BT has shown a reduction of £1 billion in providing space for staff from flexible working practices. The greenest building is no building! But not everyone is necessarily that happy with all aspects of the change – loss of personal space at work, and the potential isolation of remote working are issue.
2nd Slot – The Team From QMU
QMU is an old but established University – specialises in Health Sciences, Social Sciences, Business and Tourism. It used to have 3 sites, and lacked capacity to expand., and were not fit for purpose. Decided to build new campus – a reduction of 35% of space and that was extendable and flexible.
The redevelopment took sustainability as one of its core drivers – and they came out with Thin Client as the solution! Long life of hardware is a key driver, and QMU was able to jump out of the PC renewal cycle. Other sapects – security, licensing costs, energy costs and reduced support costs were all relevant as well. Another key point is that thin client fits the flexible nature of the campus.
The sustainable nature of the campus is realised by things like simple buildings, thin client, energy efficiency, and transport policies. They have won awards – CEEQUAL and BREEAM in various categories. For more detail see the case study:
The architects (Dyer) are up next. Social Learning was key to what was intended – but they wanted move beyond the big “wow” space – small break out spaces to follow out of larger spaces. The journey to the current design was all about getting the learning resource centre central to the campus. But it ended up with bits of the LRC being spread through the building. There was some work to be done in overcoming some resistance in certain quarters (mainly the librarians) to getting the flexibility needed.
the offie spaces are a mix of open plan and cellular offices – a bit like Cass Business School:
this has left more room for meeting rooms and informal spaces.
They have set it up to make sure that people see each other – circulation spaces are designed to bring people into contact.
On design, some feature of interest – exposed ceilings, allows cooling using cool air at night, and raised floors to allow ventilation. Once again, thin client is crucial – allows natural air cooling.
Classrooms are lit naturally as far as possible, with controls to minimise the use of artificial light.
Lots of sustainable features on waste, biodiversity, water use, right down to waterless urinals, and a biomass energy plant.
Fraser Muir – Director of IS and LRC is talking about the thin client architecture. Great benefit is remote working – in conjunction with Citrix – a standard desktop anywhere in the world (where there is a broadband connection). Not strictly true, but thin client is enabler of infrastructure that underpins the provision of remote desktop. Major saving in support – support is now a Jiffy bag – put in the bag and send it in and get a new one! Upgrades happen on the server.
Downsides? – Some non-compliant software – high level 3-D imaging, video and audio editing and hardware specific software systems don’t work.
Network integrity is crucial – multiple redundancy everywhere. Loss of local control, and people can’t install their own software – but generally in institutions Admin rights have been removed from PCs anyway. I wonder about the question of laptops? Maybe we’ll come to that.
Thin client is just part of the scheme – it includes VOIP phones, print, photocopy, wireless, laptops, etc. But no Macs here!
Panel discussion with real users of these systems at QMU, following a tour of the building and discussions over lunch. One thing about QMU is that it is a very small university, and is not that research focused. Implementing such a thorough going TC architecture would not be so easy in a research institution that works in engieering, computer science or science.
Questions about the experience – focusing on how this works from home – where I think they use Citrix to get the desktop?
Student voice – speaking about the experience of entering the building, the ambience, the green fields surrounding the campus. But access to academic staff can be problematic. Good blend of bustling, social learning spaces and smaller areas and quiet study areas.
Moving onto Welsh Video-Conferencing – we open with an image of a cow talking to a cow over V-C – the question being: How green is your video-conferencing? (the guy is Welsh). Not a lot that was new here (at least to me).
Now we are onto Mark Abrahams from Coventry University who is running the JISC Institutional Innovation project on Location Independent Working. I’ve heard this stuff before, but its good to see again the way that Coventry has thought these issues through, and how they have quite firm rules about demarcation and protocols of LIW.
Not clear as yet what the environmental impacts will be of the extension of the scheme to academic staff in the university – although one thing already noted is that people seem to be using public transport more for the times that they do come into the campus.
Other issues that are being considered are the experience of using the various provided touch down spaces. There seems to be a crucial issue on the location of these spaces which overrides other issues.
Managers seem to make more effort to keep in touch with their teams.
As part of the JISC funded Suste-IT project, a group of energy managers, infrastructure and network managers, estates managers and directors of IT from across the UK Higher Education community came together in Cardiff in early June 2008 to talk in detail about the ways to efficiently manage the energy use and cooling of data centres.
As universities invest in increasing amounts of computing power for research and other academic related activities, as well as for administrative and business computing type applications, they require more server rack space and more energy to run the systems and more energy to cool them. Given the cost of electricity and the need for the HE sector to act to reduce its Carbon emissions, the time was right to bring together the people from institutions who would have to develop the solutions that are needed.
The event at Cardiff University was the first in a series of workshops that are being run over the summer and autumn of 2008 that will focus on different aspects of managing environmentally sustainable ICT in Higher and Further Education.
One of the notable aspects of the Cardiff event was the good mix of people attracted to the event – with some institutions sending a pairing of estates/energy managers along with network/infrastructure managers.
The day consisted of a number of presentations on the subject of data centre cooling and a chance to visit the new HPC facility at Cardiff – the design and implementation of which was the subject of one of the presentations.
For more details on the Suste-IT project and details of other workshops in this series, please see the Suste-IT project website.
What is your experience – are you involved in data centre management or in providing the electricity or physical space that these systems need? We’d like to have your experience and comments.
There is a Podcast featuring Hugh Beedie (CTO at Cardiff University) – good stuff with plenty of tips on how to save money and energy and how to handle your managers.