AARNet unleashes Cloud storage on educated masses

Baptises CloudStor as official AARNet service for general member base

The Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet) has pushed its storage-as-a-service offering, CloudStor, into general availability for all members of the service provider’s network, following a year-long alpha test.

The Rapidshare-like service, borne out of a collaboration project with AARNet’s equivalents in Ireland and Norway, was initially limited to file uploads of 55 gigabytes each, but has since moved to limitations of more than 100 gigabytes for 100 recipients per file, at a time limit of 20 days.

“Now that CloudStor is an officially supported AARNet service, university IT departments and university research support departments are starting to [support it],” AARNet director of eResearch, Guido Aben, told Computerworld Australia.

In order to access CloudStor, users must either be a subscriber of the Australian Access Federation (AAF), a federated login service used by AARNet to distribute projects across a managed database of users, or access to a one-time upload voucher to use the service. The federation counts a total 53 subscribers among its members.

Over the life of the alpha test, Cloudstor provided storage for roughly 4500 files worth 1.5 terabytes of data from more than 700 users.

Researchers at AARNet had toyed with the amount of space required to run the service, beginning with four terabytes before moving to six. However, Aben said the 700-user alpha test only utilised a reserved partition of two terabytes.

“CloudStor uptake up to this point has been driven largely through mouth-to-mouth advertising; one researcher sends something to the next; that next one realises it’s a great tool and starts using it,” he said.

“I do hope and expect the growth curve will make another bend upwards and grow yet more quickly.”

Aben said the trial was continued to test whether the platform could withstand “curveballs”, such as university infrastructures, browsers and non-English languages.

As part of its official launch, the storage platform was migrated to AARNet’s RETAIN mirror and connected to a storage array network scalable to 80 terabytes allowing for “elbow room” to handle future growth. The provider also erected a user support system to aid users.

A back-up “overflow” allowance to Amazon’s S3 Cloud storage service is in continued development, but is unlikely to be enabled for CloudStor in Australia due to the bandwidth costs of moving data between Australian institutions and the Web services giant’s closest data centre in Singapore.

“If they ever built a node in Australia, at the very least we’d pick up the phone to Amazon and say ‘can we work together’,” he said. “For the moment though, the scaling problem isn’t biting us very hard.”

The provider has planned for additional functionality drops “around the corner”, including moving the platform from a Flash-based interface to HTML5. Plans are also afoot to dump Google’s now-defunct Gears plugin in favour of a solution that is more compatible with MacOS X and Linux for file uploads over two gigabytes.

The source code base has continued to be developed by researchers at AARNet and counterparts at over 15 countries, with each individual network appropriating the code for its own Cloud-based storage solution. Aben said Spain and Portugal had begun exploring the idea of a multi-tenanted system shared between universities in the two countries.

According to Aben, a service like CloudStor would likely be some time away from a wider commercial release, due to restrictive uplink speeds on copper and cable-based broadband services.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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Tags storage-as-a-serviceaarnetstorageNetworkingAustralian Academic Research Network (AARNet)CloudStor

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