ITS offers file storage on a server to all Faculty, Staff, and Students. Offering this service on a server has the following advantages over the user simply storing the file on their own equipment:
Another aspect of file services is authentication and authorization. Point 3 above covers the use of a NetID to verify if someone should have access to a file but this also applies to how someone accesses an ITS-managed computer, e.g. a Lab or Standard Desktop system.
Our options are constrained by what popular clients can use to connect. A long time ago Novell established the Proprietary NCP Protocol which requires a clients that Novell provides (mainly for Windows). Overtime SMB has become the dominant protocol. There are other network file service protocols like AFP or NFS but they only work for Mac or Unix systems. In contrast every popular client speaks SMB.
We have decided to use SMB because it is supported by all popular clients and there isn't really any other popular Network File Service Protocol. We have not yet decided how exactly to implement SMB. Given our area of expertise and leaning towards using Open Source Software our research has been in using the Samba implementation of SMB using RedHat Linux on the server side. Clients (Windows, Mac, and even Linux desktops) would then access these services using the standard software already included.
A file services working group
The main costs are Staff time and Server Upgrades.
We plan to run our new File Services in a virtualized environment on our cluster so we will need to purchase more nodes for our cluster to handle the extra load. This will provide reliable service given the cluster's redundancy. We will need to be sure we have adequate IOP performance on the cluster to support file services. In the worst case we will fall back to running directly on the new nodes, though we will have this worked out prior to deploying in production. The current pilot system is on the cluster.
We have enough storage space on our SAN to hold the extra space which we will need to transition between the old and new service. We currently use 4.6TB in Pardee and 6.7TB in AEC. Only the Pardee SAN has the extra space so we will focus on deploying in Pardee and then migrating to AEC when the old file services can go.
There is now a File Services Working group which consists of members from Network Services and User Services as well as AIS. Together we will shape what the user experience of file services will be based on what is possible and pilot new versions of the system.
This will be a major project for both Network Services and User Services and will be in flight for the next year. For more details see the draft of the Plan.