New campuswide data infrastructure service debuts March 1

Feb. 20, 2014

Beginning March 1,  UW-Madison will have access to a new portfolio of data center services and consultation, including co-located facilities, storage, backup and high-capacity networking.

Designed to best address user requirements, the new service will provide campus with a “one-stop-shop” for both physical and virtual solutions. Other unique aspects of the new service model include reporting to the campus chief information officer and a new governance structure.

“No one’s access to their data will change, even though the location of the data might. And even the physical changes will take place slowly over several years.”

Steve Krogull

For those on campus who are operating or are customers of distributed data storage services, changes may come over the next couple of years.

The Dayton Street and School of Medicine and Public Health data centers have been designated as the first two campus aggregation points, meaning data in some existing data centers will be migrated to these locations. Their ongoing management will reside within the new service.

Unique, dedicated centers such as the Space Science and Engineering Center and Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery will remain as stand-alone operations. Many others, however – as many as 85 in all – will either become an aggregation point within the new service or be aggregated into the centralized service portfolio over time.

Most UW-Madison employees won’t notice a change when the new service is in place, according to Steve Krogull, Division of Information Technology director of system engineering and operations and manager of the new service.

“No one’s access to their data will change, even though the location of the data might. And even the physical changes will take place slowly over several years,” Krogull says.

In addition to reorganizing data locations, though, Krogull also has a wide range of flexible services queued up and ready in the short-term.

“I encourage anyone who has a need for upcoming data center services to contact me,” says Krogull. “Researchers in particular will find that we can quickly supply them with an affordable implementation plan to assist in securing grants.”

Bruce Maas

Bruce Maas

Vice Provost for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, Bruce Maas, is similarly vocal on this point.

"The new data infrastructure service will be sensitive to the needs of research computing. Primarily through my engagement with Advanced Computing Infrastructure governance, I will ensure that research computing needs are addressed in addition to the other needs of our campus."

This new service is the outcome of nearly two years of extensive background work. In early 2012 a cross-campus team working within the Administrative Excellence (AE) initiative identified redundancies in data centers as one example of where UW-Madison can achieve significant savings. The team documented the existence of at least 97 data storage facilities across campus.

No one disputes the need for storage – at least 55 percent of the centers are used for research data – but according to the team’s research, fewer than 10 percent of the existing facilities meet minimum recommended standards.

Given the investments that would be required for data and facility security, hardware, utilities and an increasing use of virtual (cloud) storage, there was good reason to assess the current strategy.

Following up on these findings, an AE Data Center Aggregation Implementation team worked for more than a year on gathering requirements and exploring how to best mitigate the risks and costs of the current practices, while still meeting the needs of the campus community.

Sub-teams for campus services, facilities and governance recommended a new model for a centralized data infrastructure service, which was approved by the provost and vice chancellor for finance and administration. (See the team’s final report.) 

The new model reflects successes identified across numerous campuses during the implementation team’s research.

Organizations that have built their structures from the ground up consistently find that coordinating requirements through a shared service is faster and more economical than working in silos. While perhaps counterintuitive, the team concluded that distributed management does not lead to nimble data solutions.

Maas concurs with this conclusion.

“In the past, the campus was not in a position to offer highly scalable and secure data center services at attractive price points. Everyone wins when you can create higher quality, more affordable, flexible and secure, centrally managed facilities. Our data is an important asset, and this initiative moves us forward significantly in our ability to manage it better at scale.”

For more information on the new service, contact Krogull at (608) 263-4806 or via email at krogull@doit.wisc.edu.

– Janet DesChenes