Upgrading server estate for the world’s largest university press

by | Jun 9, 2015 | Case Studies, Design | 0 comments

Oxford University Press is one of the largest publishers in the UK and the largest university press in the world. Desire to embrace new technologies to further grow and improve is hard wired, over the last three years this has resulted in Oxford University Press embracing virtualisation and up grading its data centre design and server estate.


Further investment by the organisation has seen the lease of a new 400,000 sq. ft. distribution centre in Northamptonshire. As part of this project OUP commissioned Future-tech, data centre specialists, to construct a new disaster recovery suite situated on site.

OUP were looking at how to expand and improve their data warehousing capability so they investigated a number of options. The move to Prologis Park was considered the most attractive as it provides a superior operating environment and creates a degree of flexibility, which will help maintain their distribution requirements. With the site identified OUP and Future-tech looked at the constraints that surrounded the project and eliminated certain data centre design options that clashed with these.



The first step in the process with OUP was to look at the different data centre construction, power and cooling solutions available and find what combination would best fit the constraints of this particular project. For OUP resilience, CAPX and total cost of ownership were of maximum importance. Equally all projects vary and space, time or power availability could easily have topped this list; demonstrating a one size fits all approach doesn’t work with data centre design and build projects.

It was apparent that the solution had to be flexible in terms of cabinet densities, have a high level of resilience, as the facility looks after distribution and disaster recovery, while keeping CAPX at a minimum. To add to this the OUP are committed to reducing their carbon footprint so the facility had to be as energy efficient as possible without having a detrimental effect on the CAPX constraint.



Future-tech established which data centre design most suited the cabinet densities. Cooling technologies such as in-row, rear door and fresh air cooling combined with either free cooling coils or chilled water were all considered, but were difficult to justify the additional capital needed when compared with the ROI gained from savings they achieved in energy use. Our final design opted for a highly efficient DX cooling system, hot aisle containment and a 99% efficient UPS.

The data centre design OUP and Future-tech decided upon incorporates hot aisle containment and down flow air-conditioning units, maximizing the energy efficiency of the system and providing cooling for up to 7kW per cabinet. By using aisle containment the DX system benefits from higher return air temperatures of around 32°C. The down flow air-conditioning units supply air at 22°C, through an under floor plenum, to the front of the cabinets. By segregating the supply and return air plenums the possibility of cold air ‘short circuiting’ the system and reducing the return air temperature, in turn reducing the energy efficiency of the system, is avoided. This results is a PUE of better than 1.4.

With the data centre build project complete ahead of schedule, and server population well underway, Oxford University Press has a facility that will support them right through the next decade and beyond.


Many relationships with suppliers are done on a contract, what I would say is the relationship with Future-tech is done on the spirit of the agreement. The team are first class

Steve Knibbs, Head of Hosting Services, University of London Computer Centre