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Unsung Heroes of the Data Centre Part 2: Simon Binley, Data Centre Manager, Wellcome Sanger Insitute

Thu 3 Sep 2020 | Nick Ewing

Techerati and Data Centre World are giving shout-outs to data centre professionals nominated by their industry colleagues for their exceptional efforts in recent months. This month, Nick Ewing, Managing Director at EfficiencyIT, nominates Simon Binley, Data Centre Manager at Wellcome Sanger Institute

With a Master’s degree in Applied Project Management and more than 20 years of industry experience, Simon Binley is an unsung hero within the data centre and IT sectors. Today he leads a team of IT professionals at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, a world leader genomic discovery, research and understanding.

He has a focused passion for the industry, developing diverse new talent and leading teams across a number of roles within the organisation, previously these have included Corporate Services IT leader and Principal for ICT Project Management. As Data Centre Manager for the Wellcome Sanger Institute, his leadership skills are proven daily.

Aside from his work within the data centre, Simon’s credentials include, but are not limited to, AgilePM Practitioner, Prince 2 Project Management and Certified Data Centre Management Professional (CDCMP®). Other accreditations include ISO/20000.

Simon is a keen advocate for diversity and STEM, supporting up and coming talent in the sector to ensure the next generation of data centre professionals receive top-tier training and mentorship. Here, Simon has helped the Institute develop and commit to a vision of “growing their own”, addressing the industry skills shortage with specialised apprenticeship programs.

The data centre and IT industries have always played a critical role in business and mission-critical applications, but during the last eight months, the sector has truly stepped into a new spotlight, with industry professionals being named key workers in light of the recent health crisis.

This alone has reinforced the sheer significance of the sector, but for the Wellcome Sanger Institute – who even before the pandemic worked tirelessly to conduct key research into improving the outcomes of human health in the areas of cancer, malaria and other diseases. Here the on-premise, mission-critical infrastructure has been instrumental to the cause.

Behind each of the organisations based on its campus, those responsible for developing new research data, testing and vaccine identification, is the on-premise data centre.  Genomic research is at the heart of the Institute, and underpinning each of these projects lies a complex critical IT system, which sits in the hands of Simon and his team.

Comprising more than 400 racks and consuming 4MW of power, the Institute hosts the largest genomic research data centre in Europe. It relies heavily on its infrastructure to process genomic sequencing data quickly and efficiently and ensure that appropriate IT resources and technologies are continuously deployed to satisfy the needs of the science.

With the challenges of remote work and social distancing, Simon and his team have had to quickly adapt and reimagine the way they complete their work, ensuring uptime and operational reliability for the organisations based on site. Through his strong leadership, communication and management skills, the data centre remains operational and continues to underpin critical research on campus, identifying cures for new illnesses, despite the unprecedented challenges experienced in 2020.

The sequencers and on-site infrastructure enable the human genome to be sequenced in less than 12 hours, making data publicly available on a 24x7x365 basis to partners; including European research organisations and pharmaceutical companies.

As manager of the data centre, one of Simon’s key requirements is to maximise levels of productivity, and as the individual responsible for deploying new technologies and driving change initiatives that produce high levels of performance, Simon and the team have now begun to implement new systems that will reduce data centre operating expenditure (OpEx). In doing so, they will create additional funding for future investment back into research and development.

In light of recent times, data centres have not only become essential for businesses, consumers and the economy, but in the fight against the health crisis, they play a fundamental role. For industry professionals like Simon, those directly responsible for supporting frontline workers and driving life-saving research, there is no doubt they are heroes for us all.

  • If there is a colleague, friend or family member working in the data centre sector that you think deserves special recognition for their efforts in recent months, we want to highlight them and their work. Send us an email with their name, bio, and why you think they deserve a shout out.

Experts featured:

Nick Ewing

Managing Director


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