U-M Leaders and Best in cloud storage adoption

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ITS is pleased to announce that we have successfully adopted Amazon Web Services’ Simple Storage Service (AWS S3) to seamlessly store aging campus files and save university MiStorage capital funds.

The benefit to the university is that the Storage team will be able to run the service within the current rate structure without having to ask for additional capital outlays for equipment, provided the growth curve stays similar to what we have experienced to date. It also allows the service to take advantage of the elasticity of the cloud, growing and shrinking rapidly as campus storage demands change.

“Beginning last June, ITS began moving data that had not been accessed for a long period of time, typically 180 days, automatically and seamlessly to AWS storage. This data is encrypted during transit and while at rest in the Amazon cloud,” explains Eric Lakin, ITS storage services manager. “Data stored in Amazon’s GovCloud is actually more secure and has greater redundancy than data stored within our on-premise data centers.  This data will remain accessible to MiStorage users as if it were stored in our own data centers.”

When MiStorage was first created in the early 2010s, the funding model purchased initial equipment and covered the cost to replace that equipment on a five-year depreciation schedule. While this kept rates competitive and incented early campus adoption, it did not take into account that the service would be so successful and that it would grow at about a 20% rate annually. This translated into a $1-2 million per year request for additional storage shares and routine funding conversations between ITS and the Provost.

AWS S3 header

ITS was challenged by campus leaders to find a way to operationalize these growing costs. The Storage team explored several alternatives over the past several years, including leasing and cloud solutions. The breakthrough solution came when our storage vendor released an operating system feature that allowed our on-premise storage shares to work natively with AWS S3. This allowed the team to:

  • Identify files that have not be accessed in over 180 days
  • Move the files to AWS S3
  • Leave a “stub” file in the campus storage share so faculty, staff, and students can still see the file and access it quickly
  • Maintain a transparent process for campus

Additionally, the Storage team worked with Michigan Medicine and Information Assurance to pursue approval to place HIPAA, ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations), and EAR (Export Administration Regulations) data in AWS S3 and GovCloud offerings. This required partnering with the College of Engineering, the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, and others to ensure unit IT leaders and faculty were comfortable with this solution.

As of October 2018, the project has successfully moved 500 terabytes (TB) to S3 shares and 200 TB to GovCloud. This is well ahead of the ITS vendor agreement to host 4 petabytes (PB) in AWS within five years. This places the University of Michigan ahead of all other Big 10 schools and AWS Education clients nationwide for cloud storage integration. Storage leadership has shared their journey with others at the AWS Educate Conference, members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, and IT staff at Cornell University.

We appreciate all of the hard work that the teams put in to make this successful!