Apr 22 2013

Storage of Big Data Requires Both Planning and Policy

Centralized storage sometimes requires a culture shift.

Whether planning Big Data storage for speed or for capacity, colleges and universities often face a data-management challenge. Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pa., recently undertook a strategic storage initiative to better understand the state of its existing storage infrastructure.

50 gigabytes

The size of Lehigh University’s digital library in 2002

10 terabytes

Size of Lehigh University’s digital library in 2012, including books, maps, images, data sets and more.

SOURCE: Lehigh University Library and Technology Services

“We used storage as a vehicle for understanding Big Data and assessing our agility to anticipate customers’ needs and support new technologies,” says James Young, director for administration and planning at Lehigh. According to Young, the initiative’s success was due to collaboration across organizational boundaries, which resulted in a cultural shift toward a new centralized storage system — one able to handle IT, client services, libraries and research.

“We’ve got multiple silos of data all over campus,” says Michael Chupa, manager of research computing at Lehigh. “Until now, there hasn’t been an institutional focus on data-policy standards. If we can centralize data, we can maintain oversight and drive our customers toward something we can support and scale up.”

In doing so, Lehigh expects to deliver better service, with fewer data-access interruptions or incidents of lost data.

The shift will take time. The central data store is roughly 100TB, and Chupa says there are potential customers on campus who already store a significant chunk of that capacity in their labs. He estimates 2.5 times more storage will be needed to “sweep up” the university’s existing silos.

“We need to be able to deliver supported storage at a competitive price and offer incentives for researchers to join the central pool, which will help drive down costs,” Chupa says. “We’re hoping for policy backup explaining that we now have this scalable storage platform, and people should be using it.”


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