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Open University's Knowledge Media Institute Expands SAN for Academic Computing

The Knowledge Media Institute (KMi), part of the Open University (OU), is upgrading its storage infrastructure to support the growing needs of academic researchers at the institute.

The KMi employs more than 90 people, including researchers, technologists, designers, and administrative staff, and that number is growing quickly, along with the number of academic projects the institute handles. To meet the increasing demands, the KMi needed to expand its storage area network (SAN) capacity.

The institute's IT administrators decided to upgrade to a new, scalable, high-performance platform, adopting the Dot Hill AssuredSAN 3720 8 gigabit fibre channel networked RAID array with 2.5-inch drive technology. The Dot Hill storage arrays support a variety of types of drives, including SAS, SATA, and SSD. This flexibility is important to the KMi owing to the diverse needs of its research projects, which use a mixture Web-based applications, databases, and high-performance computing (HPC) systems.

"Very often we have HPC requirements where the high-performance 2.5-inch SAS drives running over our fibre channel SAN deliver the performance we need, however most research projects have a three-year active life and a five-year data archive requirement so it makes more sense to utilise lower-cost, bulk SATA storage for this purpose," said Paul Alexander, systems and development Manager at KMi.

Another factor that guided the KMi to select the Dot Hill AssuredSAN 3720 was its ratio of performance density to the form factor of the drives, which maximizes the data center space. The full VMware certification of the AssuredSAN product was also an important consideration because the KMi uses virtualization extensively.

The Open University is the biggest university in the United Kingdom. It serves more than 260,000 undergraduate and graduate students and employs 7,000 tutors, 1,200 full-time faculty, and 3,500 support and administrative staff.

The Knowledge Management Institute was established in 1995 to support research and development at the Open University. The KMi supports research and development in the areas of cognitive and learning sciences, artificial intelligence and semantic technologies, and multimedia.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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