Excited about a cloudy future at Purdue: University and EMC bringing massive data storage to students and faculty

June 27, 2012

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Comedian George Carlin famously observed that all you need in life is a place to put your stuff.

For college students, where to put their digital stuff, including materials developed through their academic careers, their many favorite photos, and a multitude of other digital files, can be a problem. It's an even bigger problem for researchers and instructors who may have enormous data files that need to be managed, curated and analyzed.

A new service at Purdue, however, called BoilerBackpack, will give students, faculty and staff 100 gigabytes of personal storage, so everyone at Purdue will have a large amount of space to store their digital stuff.

And that's just the first step in a new partnership between Purdue and storage giant EMC Corp.

Purdue and EMC Corp. are embarking on a five-year relationship that will both address the issue of where students and faculty can put their digital files, as well as develop solutions that can be adapted throughout higher education.

"When we looked to solve our data management and storage issues, we wanted to look well beyond current practices and work to develop new solutions that can move science forward and improve student success," says Gerry McCartney, chief information officer, faculty member of the College of Technology at Purdue, and the Olga Oesterle England Professor of Information Technology. "EMC is the only corporation we talked to that had the capability to both address our current data storage needs and to partner with us to develop new technologies to improve data management."

Purdue is naming EMC as one of its Foundational IT Partners, a group that includes Intel, HP, and Cisco. Foundational IT Partners work with the university in developing new technologies to be used in higher education and scientific discovery.

The Purdue partnership fits well with EMC's goal of transforming IT, says Pat Gelsinger, President and Chief Operating Officer of EMC Information Infrastructure Products.

"The amount of digital information in the world will grow forty-four fold this decade. And in some academic disciplines, such as bioinformatics, datasets have become so large that they defy the ability of conventional forms of information technology to store, manage, analyze, and gather important insights from them," Gelsinger says. "EMC's partnership with Purdue is designed to advance new technology architectures and algorithms to deal with the challenges of all of this Big Data."

For faculty and students at Purdue, the most visible and immediate benefit of the agreement will be in place when they return for classes in the fall of 2012 with the launch of the BoilerBackpack service.

The service will be similar to other popular cloud data services which typically offer between 2 GB to 7GB of free storage. Like those services, Backpack will allow students and faculty to sync files, access those files from any computer, and share files or folders with others. BoilerBackpack apps will be available for Android smartphones, Apple iPhones and iPads, as well as apps for Windows and Macintosh desktop computers.

As with the commercial services, BoilerBackpack users will be able to purchase additional storage space if needed, and the university is exploring ways to allow students to continue to use the service after they graduate.

"We'll announce specific details of the service as it launches in August, but we're pleased to offer our students and faculty a needed resource that they wouldn't find at this scale on any other campus," McCartney says.

Beyond the cloud storage service for the Purdue community, EMC and Purdue will work together in several specific ways:

* Purdue researchers will have access to a new, on-demand massive storage facility.

* EMC and Purdue will jointly develop a new architecture for research data management and curation.

* EMC and Purdue will work to develop new technologies to ingest, analyze, transfer and manage enormous research data sets, especially in the field of bioinformatics.

* With EMC's assistance, Purdue will begin building a repository of all Purdue intellectual property.

* Research engineers and scientists from both organizations will work together on academic papers and presentations, as well as presentations at trade conferences.

The Purdue-EMC relationship is needed to address the challenges and opportunities of using data analysis of massive data sets – so called Big Data - to gain insights and forecast outcomes by both researchers and students at Purdue. Purdue has been a leader in using data sets to improve student success and retention with its Signals data analytics program.

"Big Data will be to the next decade what  the Internet was to the 1990s and early 2000s," McCartney says. "Over the next ten years it will change businesses and education in ways that we can't imagine right now. With this partnership we're positioning Purdue to be a leader in these changes."

McCartney says the partnership will have benefits extending beyond the Purdue campus.

"Our Foundational IT Partner companies have not only committed to provide excellent products and service to Purdue, but they have also committed to work with us to develop technologies to speed the pace of scientific discoveries and to improve the rate of student success in higher education," McCartney says. "EMC is exactly the kind of company we are looking to partner with in this effort, and because we will be advancing data science, this relationship has the potential to change every market that uses the Internet."
     
Writer:  Steve Tally, 765-494-9809, tally@purdue.edu, Twitter: sciencewriter

Sources:  McCartney: 765-496-2270, mccart@purdue.edu, Twitter: @gerrymccartney

                   EMC media contact: Jen Boucher, , 508-249-6837, jen.boucher@emc.com