Proposal ID 2015-023
Submitted January 15, 2015
Owner krisshaw
Department College of Arts and Sciences
Category Remote Computing
Funding Status Fully Funded
Metric Score None


  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Kris Shaw
  • Director of IT
  • 206-685-1627
  • 354322
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Vickie Graybeal
  • Administrator
  • 206-616-1942
  • 354322
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Robert Stacey
  • Dean
  • 206-543-5340
  • 353765



REMOTE COMPUTING - Cloud Storage for all Students (aka “U Drive”); a proposal by UW-IT, the Department of Statistics, the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, the Department of Mathematics and the Center For Statistics And the Social Sciences.

This proposal would provide continued funding for the central, UW-IT managed, cloud storage for all Students. This service addresses a very pressing need that is emerging with the increased number of virtual and remote computing options like VIDA, CSDE Terminal Servers, and the Statistics/CSSS/Math Virtual Computing Labs. Previously as students move from remote resource to other remote resources or physical lab machines they were forced to continuously transfer their files via email, or repeatedly setup slow, cumbersome file syncing software -- this proposal provides continued funding for the “U Drive” storage service which provides a solution to that and increase the productivity and usefulness of all of these resources.

This service started as a successful pilot project funded by Statistics, CSSS, and Math that provided UW-IT managed cloud storage for incoming Statistics Graduate students and for users of the Statistics Virtual Computing Lab (an STF funded initiative).

This proposal also provides students the same central storage infrastructure that is available to faculty, staff, and researchers that is provided by the UW IT Tech Recharge Fee.

Category Justification

This service is available to all students on the three campus via VIDA, department terminal servers, personal laptops. In addition off campus access is provided via SFTP. This proposal makes it easier for students to have access to their files as they roam between the various service offerings on campus and use the environments which best suit their computing needs.

If a student is a dual major, for instance, they would have access to their storage area across both department's computing offerings. Students can leverage STF-funded resources in various units more effectively. One unit may provide a walk-in lab, another a virtual desktop environment, yet another might offer remote access windows terminal services. A student can pick and choose among the STF and Departmental funded computing offerings, all the while having their central storage available to them wherever they go.


Imagine having as many computing options as there are units on campus.... freely moving between the myriad of services available to you via the units you interact with. The files you need for your homework, dissertation, research, and other academic pursuits are stored in a UW hosted "Cloud" which is seamlessly available from anywhere: at home, on campus, in the Odegaard commons, in an Engineering lab, and remotely via the VIDA VDI project or a windows terminal server in the Social Sciences.

No longer are your files stuck in balkanized, locally provisioned servers, or in some obtuse web-based file share that is not natively accessible via a drive-letter mapping (a requirement for the discipline-specific software application software students use the most), or via an online clouded service that takes forever to upload/download/sync and isn\'t drive letter mapped either.

Seamless. UWNETID integrated so there is just one login to keep track of. Drive letter mappable student private storage. Centrally provisioned and managed. Behind the scenes, your storage is supported by UW-IT local infrastructure - hosted where the $ per gigabyte is the lowest and most flexible, and extensive backups and the ability for the user to quickly and easily recover files going back months.

The old model:
STF has historically funded all kinds of storage in individual departments and centers because there has been no centrally deployed & highly accessible option.

Unit "X" asks STF for money to purchase a file server to host student files. Unit "X" must now house, power, and back up this server and provide access to it only for students who sign up for an account in the Unit "X" ecosystem. If a student goes over to Unit "Y", they can sign up for a Unit "Y" account and get a separate STF-funded storage space there as well.

This is repeated all over campus - across dozens of different units. Each unit must put forth an STF proposal, purchase/deploy/provision storage for their students, buy excess capacity for growth, and support the box for the lifetime of the proposal parameters.

In the past, technological limitations dictated this model, but now UW-IT has many of the critical pieces in place to make central storage for students possible:
- New IBM GPFS-backed storage infrastructure
- UWWI central \"UWNETID\" authentication for Windows Domains
- Self-service Backup/Restore snapshot capability
- Substantial UW-IT network backbone upgrades

What about DropBox/ Files?

Services such as Drop Box or cloud type storage like Skydrive or Google files have been proposed as solutions to this storage problem, however, after much departmental investigation, these do not address the needs of students using the various computing resources on campus. For instance, they are not good tools for accessing the same data across multiple campus computing resources seamlessly.

For example, and Dropbox are not remote storage, they are synchronization services - each time you log in to a new resource, you must setup and download your entire dropbox folder to the local machine (still consuming costly local storage resources, so units still have to buy local, balkanized disks. Not to mention the complexity of setting up the synchronizaton software at each login (especially in environments such as VDI where the image is reset to defaults after each logout).

Skydrive and Google Files do not have a native mount interface, so students can not open their files in their favorite applications. Students would have to transfer each file up and down via a cumbersome web interface. There are also some strict file size limits that make it impossible to use with larger data sets. File transfer speeds to the cloud are very very bad. Also, if they forget to transfer their saved files before logging off, they may lose a significant amount of work... especially in a VDI or lab environment where a system is wiped/reset to defaults after each logout.

Benefits to Students and the University

A centrally provided storage through a partnership of STF, UW-IT, and units across campus. Units can leverage this service to mount the students personal storage (via CIFS or SFTP) across lab computers, Terminal Servers, Virtual Desktops, mobile devices, and the like. When a student moves between these various units to take advantage of the many unique, discipline-tailored computing environments, they still will have access to the same files they used in other units... that is, their files stay with them as they pick and choose the computing they want to use across campus.

Additionally, students can access their strorage directly from their personal laptops or desktops.

We believe this is the best possible combination of local control and central provisioning. It makes sense for high-availability, optimal resource utilization, wide accessibility, and gives students more flexibility.

Individual departments and units are freed from providing, managing, and backing up personal student storage and requesting funding for it from the STF committee. There is much existing infrastructure that will be leveraged by this proposal, most of it was funded by the UW and did not use STF funds. This demonstrates a strong institutional commitment to students.

Also, the storage will not be provisioned until it is needed, thus keeping costs down initially and insuring each STF dollar is spent efficiently and effectively. This also insures that if the utilization is low initially, that the costs to STF will also be low. As more students begin to use the service, the cost \"phases in\". Every dollar spent can be directly tracked to real world utilization by students.

Departmental Endorsements

Jacob A. Morris, Manager
Learning Technologies, UW-IT

I\'m writing to endorse this proposal for shared central storage for students. Most students move between departments, colleges and various technology resources throughout their lives on campus, and often during a single quarter. Many departments have made file storage easier for students only in their majors, but these file storage resources are often limited to just those courses and spaces, and are not accessible elsewhere on campus or off.

By introducing a service available university-wide for interested departments, students will be able to move seamlessly from specialized departmental labs, to general-access labs such as Odegaard, to online using tools such as Virtual Desktop Access (ViDA), all the while able to access files created and saved in any of those spaces.

Not only would this benefit our department and allow us to offer a better service, students will have a simpler, easier way to manage their digital lives as they relate to UW.

Brad Greer
Director, UW-IT Large-Scale Storage and Systems

In previous STF proposals requiring storage, UW-IT has purchased separate, dedicated hardware to provide storage for student use. The hardware was typically not easily expanded and had to last 4-5 years, so an entire 4 years of storage space would be purchased up front at prevailing storage prices. Being able to adjustable the storage allocation on a more frequent basis makes large services like this more feasible.

Kris Shaw
Department of Statistics

Over the past several years we have seen a number of STF remote computing projects put into production around campus. Students clearly are interested in this emerging technology. However it has become apparent that the lack of a common, centrally provided data store is preventing students from fully realizing the potential of these systems. Student?s work ends up being sand-boxed on a number of different systems, or in some cases there is no local storage provided at all. Transferring data in and out is a cumbersome process. This proposal provides the ideal pay-as-you-go model for storage. Nearly every dollar spent is directly supporting student usage.

Installation Timeline

This service is already launched. This proposal provides continued funding for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Resources Provided by Department

Departmental and UW-IT contributions:
- UW-IT: $ 12,220 provided for one time costs for the setup of the interface servers.
- Depts: $ 3,900 in one time costs for the setup of the interface servers.
- Depts: $ 10,000 for the pilot cloud storage project funded by Statistics, CSSS, and Math.

Additional support via:
- Projected commitment of staff hours across many units on campus to implement the automated use of this new storage service to build the best possible computing systems for their supported constituencies.
- Substantial work by the the UW-IT Identity and Access management group rolling out UWWI (UW Windows Infrastructure Group) which provides a central identity and groups service for use by all departments on the UW campus.
- Substantial investment of time and money by UW-IT setting up the central IBM GPFS distributed file system
- Ongoing service improvements on the UW-IT Network (net-ops) to insure bandwidth availability across campus

UW-IT will provide support, installation, maintenance, infrastructure, staffing, and other ongoing costs to provide this service as part of the proposal costs.

Access Restrictions (if any)


Student Endorsements

I've used U Drive since my first week as a student at UW. It has been very helpful to be able to access my files anywhere without the risk of forgetting a portable drive. This tool can be a lifesaver for students.
Shane Kautz


Group Funded Item Unit price Quantity Subtotal

Central Storage For All UW Students

$36,000.00 1 $36,000.00


This is an estimated, not to exceed amount for providing approximately 8.5 TB of disk spool space. Costs will be heavily dependent on usage. Unused funds would be returned to STF.

Total requested: $36,000.00

Total funded: $36,000.00


The U Drive is an essential part of the computing resources that we provide here in the Mechanical Engineering department. By utilizing the U drive on our Remote Desktop servers and computer labs, we are able to offer a "state-less" system where storage is out-sourced to the U Drive. Not having to worry about storage requirements for our systems, makes them much simpler, reliable and economical to operate and maintain. I endorse this proposal and hope it will enable the increasing of the current default allocation beyond 10 GB per user.

Nick Paradis,
Senior Computer Specialist / IT Administrator, Mechanical Engineering — January 19, 2015 @ 1:29 p.m.

No comments