The cloud is the future for academic research. I’m ready.

By Darwin Gosal

Drawing on the resources and traditions of Yale University and the National University of Singapore, Yale-NUS aims to redefine liberal arts and science education for a complex, interconnected world. Our curriculum and pedagogy, seeks to draw on the strengths of established liberal arts traditions, while introducing our students to the diverse intellectual traditions and cultures of Asia and the world. We are nurturing young minds and equipping the next generation with the means to appreciate and understand the breadth and complexity of issues, the capacity to think critically and solve problems, and the skills to effectively communicate and lead.

We plan to redefine our IT by moving beyond the data center to a world where computing is software defined. The truth is that traditional IT models don’t cut it anymore for colleges like ours. We need highly scalable computing for research teams in areas such as digital humanities, but the on premise route is too expensive. For one thing there’s the cost of building and powering these platforms, and for another there’s the management expense. That’s why we developed an exostructure strategy rather than an infrastructure strategy.

Choosing the cloud

Exostructures are about using cloud platforms to deliver a lot of computing power at lower cost. In our case that means using public cloud services but also building a private cloud platform because some data has to stay on site for legal and/or latency reasons. When we considered vendors to support our strategy, I thought of Dell straightaway. Dell is a major proponent of open source. Plus, its use of open standards means no vendor lock-in. The key thing for me was the long-term partnership with Red Hat and OpenStack. It gave us all a lot of confidence.

Based on our conversations with Dell, we built our cloud using Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 6. In terms of hardware for the solution, we deployed Dell PowerEdge R720 and R720XD servers with Intel Xeon processors and used Dell Networking S4810P and S55 switches. The R720s deliver the compute performance using OpenStack NOVA, and the R720XDs run OpenStack CINDER, GLANCE, and SWIFT elements while delivering 48 terabytes of built-in storage. It’s a reliable, powerful solution.

Becoming software defined

What we’ve got here at Yale-NUS is something on which to develop our software-defined data center strategy which will give us the agility and efficiency for growth and adapting new technologies. Looking back, we’ll see it was at this point that our strategy really began to take shape. With the low-latency, cut-through switching of our Dell Networking switches we can push ahead and take advantage of a world where software becomes the key building block of any data center. Software-defined IT – we’re ready and waiting.

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