Lancaster University expects to need 13x more storage by 2019

Lancaster University is preparing to increase its storage capacity from 300TB to 4PB over the next four years.

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Lancaster University is preparing to increase its storage capacity from 300TB to 4PB over the next four years, according to systems technical coordinator Dr Matthew Storey.

The university, which has more than 30,000 students and staff, recently completed a project to consolidate servers and refresh its infrastructure. It has virtualised about 90 percent of its estate using software from VMWare.  

The challenge now is to prepare for future data storage needs. Although it is hard to predict the scale of storage needed, the university is in a position for it to grow “up to and beyond 4PB” within the next four years, Storey told ComputerworldUK.

“We’re receiving, processing and storing vast amounts of data for the research community. And we have to keep onto some of these large datasets for a long period of time now, as a result of requirements from research boards and government,” he said.

A number of government and research bodies have yet to set out their precise requirements, but one proposal is that data must be retained for up to 10 years, Storey said. The university also needs to comply with various research organisations’ data disposal rules.

The university has been working with Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) for six years and recently reappointed the firm for another four years after a competitive tender process, according to Storey. 

Lancaster has a pair of mirrored data centres but is currently exploring which parts of its estate would be suitable for public cloud, he said.

However the university has to be “very careful not to get into anything that would cause problems with compliance or research requirements”, Storey added.

The university has developed a mobile app for students called ‘iLancaster’, which allows them to see their course timetable, local bus services, opening hours and even the status of the campus laundrette, he said.

“Because we now have a much faster infrastructure and greater capacity to deliver services quickly to end users, we can do more interesting stuff like that.

“We’re always looking for new value-adds we can provide for students. Ultimately it’s all about how our infrastructure supports their experience,” Storey added.