The Wellcome Sanger Institute has upgraded its power infrastructure, to better handle data from a bank of genome sequencers which are in use in the fight against Covid-19.

A new set of 300 APC rack power distribution units (PDUs), custom-designed by the Institute and its IT partner EfficiencyIT, and supplied by Schneider Electric, have been installed to trim energy consumption and eliminate wasted capacity in the 4MW data at Hinxton, near Cambridge. The site's IT capacity is positioned close to an array of dozens of sequencing machines, to quickly process DNA data - this can monitor and trace new variants of the disease, or progress pure life science research.

Save energy, do more science

Wellcome Trust

Mining genomes

As genomic data emerges at ever-increasing rates, can the data center at Wellcome Sanger Institute keep up?

“The research we undertake is sensitive, complex and imperative to life science progress,” said Simon Binley, data center manager at the Institute. “The data center plays a fundamental role in ensuring continuity for mission-critical applications, and by optimizing its performance we can reduce costs and become more sustainable, while identifying energy savings that will create more funding for life-saving science.”

Managed by Schneider's Ecostruxure management system, the PDUs show where power is being used, and can provide savings - all of which will be reallocated as funding for more genomic research. The upgrade is the latest step in a modernization program which began in 2019.

As well as the Institute, the data center's services help other partners on the Wellcome Genome Campus partners, including an archive of DNA sequences arising from genetic research, created by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

Continuous updates to the Institute's data center are needed, to keep up with the rapidly-growing output of the sequencing machines. The first human genome took 13 years to sequence and was completed in 2003. Now, at the Wellcome Institute, the latest NovaSeq 6000 sequencers from Illumina can deliver 6Tb or 20Tb reads of an entire genome, in less than two days - and the Institute has dozens of them.

The spiraling amount of data produced is driven by the importance of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and other diseases, and enabled by falling costs. During this modernization program, the Institute has upgraded to the $400,000 NovaSeq 6000 models, from an earlier model which cost $900,000 and produced about half the data, at 2Tb per day.

“This second phase will see the deployment of new custom-designed APC power systems, enabling the Wellcome Sanger Institute to identify stranded capacity, improve energy usage and lower its carbon footprint; all while ensuring uptime, data security and protecting the organizations on site,” said Nick Ewing, Managing Director, EfficiencyIT..