Evolving CloudStor to meet the changing needs of research

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AARNet is Australia’s national research and education network. As well as our high performing network, we deliver a growing portfolio of connectivity, cyber security, data and collaboration services.

AARNet is strongly committed to developing and delivering services that meet the unique needs of researchers, and our CloudStor research data storage and collaboration platform is a great example of this.

We recently made some changes to the way that we develop and deliver services for researchers to ensure that they are embedded at the very core of our operations, and match the high quality and performance expected of our network.

The journey so far

We launched CloudStor in 2007 to solve the problem researchers had, at the time, of sharing large files over the internet. Since then, we have continued to add tools and capabilities to CloudStor.

Now, 14 years on, the changing needs of researchers mean that it is time to evolve the platform to better meet the needs of the research community.

We’ve recently conducted a review of Cloudstor, held a number of workshops and sought feedback and input from the community for the next generation of CloudStor to ensure that we evolve the service to meet the needs of researchers now and into the future.  Additional workshops and community consultation will continue over the coming months to finalise our requirements for the investments AARNet will make next.

What the data tells us

Looking at the data we collected during our recent review, we can see that while CloudStor has over 115,000 registered users, there is a monthly average of 10,000 unique regular users. We know that the majority of these users are researchers or research support staff (the remaining users are collaborators, students and staff at AARNet customer organisations).

With over 3.7 million folders or files shared, we can see that the sharing capabilities of CloudStor are being extensively used. CloudStor is managing over 1.2 petabytes of geographically replicated (and backed up) data, which is predominately in individuals accounts.

The system also manages petabytes of Zoom recordings and secure file shares, along with several petabytes in object storage, all replicated and backed up. In short, CloudStor is being used today by researchers as intended.

CloudStor review

What we’ve learnt from consultations with the research community to date is that AARNet as an organisation is a trusted partner of the institutions we serve. Users interviewed believe that there is a greater need for storage coupled with compute now and that high-performing connectivity is key for using the offerings of storage/compute providers.

We also learnt that we need to improve the reliability and availability of the platform to ensure that it is always available when researchers need it. The SWAN (Service for web-based analysis) and FileSender are very useful for researchers, and many use CloudStor for active storage before publishing and archiving. Requests for improvements include meeting security standards, such as ISO27001, auditability of data movement and API integrations.

What’s the plan?

We are prioritising two concurrent projects.

The first priority is improving the reliability and availability of the existing CloudStor platform to address reliability issues and we have made significant headway on this.

The second priority is to co-develop the new and improved CloudStor with the research community, shaped around the learnings from the consultations outlined above and further input.

The focus will be on delivering the interfaces and tools researchers need and supporting research domains by addressing data sharing and movement challenges, as well as workflow requirements. Access to compute and connectivity to the broader research infrastructure ecosystem, better integration with scientific instruments for moving data into and out of CloudStor, and the ability to handle certain types of sensitive data will be key capabilities. CloudStor NextGen will support the active data lifecycle from collection through to publication.

AARNet is deeply committed to developing and delivering technologies and services that meet the unique and changing needs of the Australian research community. We are refreshing our strategy to focus on supporting key research disciplines and will be consulting with the research community to understand where the priorities are. 

We’re keen to have you along for the next part of the journey for CloudStor. Contact us to find out more.

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