Universities struggle to keep up with storage demands

Universities struggle to keep up with storage demands

Students, faculty clamor for space to store fast-growing audio, video, text files

"Every 12 months, the expectation of the newest group of students pushes the bar a little higher," remarked Waldron. "This year, it's wireless and storage, next it will be more multimedia and Web 2.0."

"We're keeping an eye on things like social networking sites like YouTube -- all these things you never would've thought we'd look at a few years ago," he added.

Salisbury's storage-area network (SAN) runs an EMC Clariion CX600 array with both ATA and fiber-channel disks, alongside an EMC Celerra NS702 network-attached storage (NAS), Waldron said.

The IT unit is responsible for providing e-mail service to about 12,000 people at the university, Waldron said.

Each faculty member is provided with 2GB of e-mail storage capacity, he said. "This has become a big part of how they teach. We've expanded our storage system to accommodate them as much as we can," noted Waldron.

Salibury's 7,500 students each get 200MB of free e-mail storage capacity, he said.

To keep up with the increasing demands, Salisbury will soon add an 8TB mini-SAN system from Avid Technologies that will also support a new 20,000 square-foot media center that's slated to open next September.

David Medeiros, senior systems engineer at California State University in San Marcos, said his school's data storage needs are growing by about 30 percent a year.

The biggest challenges for the school's IT storage unit include managing the rapidly-growing number of video files in its storage systems and satisfying expectations of users who are demanding instant access to their data, Medeiros said.

"It's definitely changed. People want access to their stuff all the time, and they don't want quotas. It's a challenge to keep all of that up," he noted.

The university runs mostly Network Appliance Inc. systems to store 24TB of data, Medeiros said. It uses a NetApp FAS3050C to house all student home directories and Microsoft Exchange and Oracle databases, he said.

The college runs a NetApp R200 nearline storage array to back up the FAS3050C and a separate R200 array to store video files, Medeiros said.

By next spring, Medeiros said he plans to roll out new technology that will enable the university to boot virtualized systems from the 3050C device by attaching Fibre Channel arrays to a VMware ESX server.

For Corey Grone, IT manager at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, exploding data growth on campuses -- which he says was spawned from thumb drives and external hard drives -- is a "scary" issue that requires increasing attention from IT managers.

In tandem with a project to outsource his school's e-mail storage to an online backup and storage provider, the university recently implemented a shared file server.

Grone said he hopes that the two initiatives will help lessen escalating storage maintenance and support burdens from IT.

Some colleges turning to online storage options

Some colleges are turning to hosted online storage services to keep up with the fast-growing needs of faculty and students who are storing ever-larger amounts of data.

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