Universities seek nodes for national storage network

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Universities seek nodes for national storage network

Project to bring together 70 petabytes and public cloud.

The University of Queensland is seeking up to ten university data centres to act as nodes in a Government-funded storage infrastructure project.

It offered selected universities a share of $39.1 million to enhance facilities that would form part of national Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RDSI).

The project had a total of $50 million from the 2009-10 Budget, as per a three-year funding agreement that was formalised by the Government and University of Queensland last December.

Project coordinators issued a request for proposals from potential nodes last month, calling for organisations with robust, scalable facilities with 100 Gbps connections to other research institutes.

RDSI documents (pdf) advised nodes to “be prepared for at least a doubling in footprint and power / cooling requirements, and a factor of ten in storage demand, over the life of the project”.

According to project director Nick Tate, the infrastructure would store Australian research data collections, and potentially research data from State and Federal governments.

The invitation for proposals closed on 12 September; project coordinators expected to provide the Government with an initial set of nodes for approval by 14 November.

Of the $39.1 million, $10.6 million would be spent on identifying and selecting six ‘primary nodes’ and up to four ‘additional nodes’ that were, or could be, connected to AARNet’s research network.

Project coordinators planned to spend an additional $28.5 million on some 70 petabytes of storage hardware and the relocation of existing data collections under the ‘Research Data Services Program’.

Nodes would be encouraged to store eligible data collections for free; in exchange, they would receive funding and “become deeply engaged with the Australian research community”, RDSI proposed.

In addition to Government funding, coordinators expected the RDSI project to attract $32,542,812 of co-investment from nodes and “associated entities”.

“Organisations participating in the project can expect a significant boost to their own infrastructure capacity, which is retained at the end of the project, their functionality, and the skills of their staff.

“Being a node ... will make an organisation significantly more visible to the [research] community, boosting the client base, and through the additional functionality it will make the organisation more valuable to the community.”

Remaining funds from the Government’s $50 million would support the development of a new data sharing software platform and the establishment of a vendor panel for project members.

Tate said RDSI coordinators had met with about 140 vendor representatives so far, and planned to issue a corresponding request for proposals within “a few weeks”.

Project members were also considering building a “gateway” that would allow researchers to use public cloud services to satisfy any temporary storage requirements.

Tate noted that use of such public cloud services would be limited by confidentiality, privacy concerns and network speed.

Because Government funding only provided for capital costs of the projects, researchers would also be liable for any ongoing cloud computing costs.

Under the current funding agreement (pdf), Government funding for the RDSI would conclude by 30 June 2013. Project coordinators planned to submit their final report to Government by 30 June 2014.

Should the Government not renew funding, Tate said nodes could continue offering storage at a fee.

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