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For IT managers in research institutions and universities, there’s tremendous pressure to deal with rapidly increasing data volumes, far-reaching legal requirements for energy efficiency, and requirements for data security and data sovereignty – not to mention the particular challenges of university hospitals, which must also protect sensitive patient data.

Even at universities with well-regarded IT departments, IT systems in the administrative area are often operated in their own, usually outdated, data centers on the university’s property.

In most cases, these are not up to date in terms of energy-efficiency or security-related requirements. In its 2023 annual report, the Hamburg Court of Audit in Germany points out the inadequate IT security of universities. Admittedly, these findings are not new to industry insiders. However, given the increased risks in Germany, urgent action is now needed.

Security first

Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security recently published the IT Basic Protection Compendium 2023, which, at 858 pages, provides a comprehensive basis for dealing with the topic of information security. The “Elementary Threats” section alone covers 48 pages and various threats, from natural disasters and power outages to human error or deliberate manipulation.

Unfortunately, many of these scenarios are now more likely than ever before. However, the fact remains that the updating of on-premises infrastructure is likely to exceed most universities’ IT budgets.

2030 is getting closer

As if these security-related challenges weren't already big enough, there are also discussions underway in Germany about the Energy Efficiency Act. In the current draft, the regulations for operating data centers are significantly tightened. For example, from 2025 onwards, an energy-efficiency standard PUE (power usage effectiveness) of 1.3 must be met, 50% of power consumption must be covered by non-subsidized renewable energy by 2024, and by 2027, 40% of waste heat must be used.

Particularly interesting is that certified energy management or environmental management systems are mandatory for a connected load of more than 1 megawatt to comply with these regulations. In light of this, many companies have already restructured their IT infrastructure and, as part of their strategy, are using software as a service for their applications. For universities, however, legal requirements can make this difficult to implement.

Colocation as a solution

Colocation data centers provide a secure and sustainable solution to these challenges. The advantage of colocation data centers is that the IT infrastructure is still operated by the university, research institute or hospital; it’s simply not on their premises.

A colocation approach can solve many security and sustainability challenges at once. For example, NTT’s data centers have a sophisticated security system that includes access control and 24x7 monitoring of the entire facility, as well as a fully redundant power supply and emergency power supply to ensure ongoing operations. Furthermore, as a signatory to the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, we are committed to achieving significant energy savings, as evidenced by our use of groundwater cooling in our Munich 2 Data Center and reuse of waste heat for district heating in Berlin 2.

This article includes contributions by Christoph Meyer, Senior Client Manager at NTT

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