Home' Campus Technology : November 2012 Contents In the eyes of many, it's a crisis that has the potential to
become a strategic disaster. As far as Gartner is concerned,
time is already running out: The research company identified
the critical time frame for action as 2010-2013. Regina
Kunkle, VP of state and local education for NetApp, shares
Gartner's sense of urgency. "Data storage is 40-50 percent
of your budget," she warns, "and growing anywhere from
50-100 percent a year."
What is all of this data and why is it so important? That's
exactly what Lehigh University (PA) decided to find out in
2011. "We developed a charge to better understand storage
requirements, campus practices, and customer needs in
order to make strategic storage investments and improve
storage service to the campus community," explains James
Young, director for administration and planning in the Office
of Library and Technology Services.
Young's team identified four factors driving the growing
demand for data storage:
A push to enhance campus research
A shift in library needs from physical storage to storage-
intensive digital projects and a new institutional repository
New federal grant requirements for longer retention
Increasingly complex storage and backup needs on the
part of users, including media content, transactional data,
social media, and research data 4
TAPE OR DISK?
THE CHOICE OF STORAGE medium often elicits strong responses from IT folks. But both tape and disks have a role to
play, depending on your school's needs. In many cases, a combination may be the best strategy.
Without doubt, tape is slower than disks, and a tape library comes with significant fixed costs. But, depending on your
circumstances, these may not be factors. Consider the Oklahoma PetaStore at the University of Oklahoma, for example. The
PetaStore is intended as a long-term parking lot for large-scale research data, which is an ideal use for tape. "The general rule is,
'Write once, read seldom,'" says Henry Neeman, executive director of research computing and services as well as director of the
Supercomputing Center for Education & Research. "The files are not constantly being moved on and off, as with a disk system."
Plus, because individual researchers pay only for the media, tape is a much cheaper option than disks (see video on page 36). "One of
the key advantages of tape in our business model is that the fixed costs---hardware, software, and maintenance---are handled by the
grant and by the university," explains Neeman.
Finally, there's an energy consideration. "A rack of disk
drives that's reasonably active draws as much power as a
rack of supercomputer servers," says Neeman. "But a rack
of tape draws almost no power at all, so there's a green
value as well."
Make no mistake, the PetaStore is not wedded to tape. Indeed, it goes out of its way to give researchers as many options for
data storage and retrieval as possible. Users can choose storage media and duplication options on a file-by-file basis: one copy
on disk only; one copy on disk and one on tape; one copy on tape only; or two copies on tape.
On the other hand, Matt Lawson, director of enterprise services for the Virginia Community College System, considers tape
something of a four-letter word. Back in the bad old days before VCCS adopted NetApp to power its private cloud, the college
system relied on tape backups. Lawson recalls one particular tape restore that took about two weeks. "For a while the engineers
thought we weren't going to be able to do the recover at all," he says. "Now we can do a multi-terabyte recovery in minutes using
The ability to recover data quickly is critical, and schools should make disaster recovery a central part of their storage strategy.
Unfortunately, that is not the case today. "Surprisingly, higher ed is not as far along that path as you would think," says Regina Kunkle,
VP of state and local education for NetApp, who believes disaster recovery is the number one challenge facing higher education in
the storage arena. It's not simply a matter of having redundant data centers or backup in the cloud, she notes. Meeting recovery-point
and recovery-time objectives often depends on the media---tape or disk---and the methods chosen for storage.
The ability to recover data quickly
is critical, and schools should make
disaster recovery a central part of
their storage strategy.
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | November 2012
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