Friday, November 20, 2009

ICPSR and the Cloud

Interest in the cloud is heating up on the University of Michigan campus. In the past day or two I've seen surveys asking campus IT leaders to comment on their exploratory interest in the cloud, and have also answered email queries about who is dabbling with the cloud.

ICPSR started exploring the Amazon cloud in late 2008, and by early 2009 we had setup our first production service, a stealth authoritative DNS server for our domains, and a replica of our Web service infrastructure. We're primarily uses of the Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3). We're also looking at CloudFront, but to be honest, I'm not sure we generate the volume of traffic that would make it super useful to us.

Since them we've also launched an instance in Amazon's EU zone for disaster recovery purposes, and launched a handful of new sites on cloud instances rather than local hardware. Here's a complete roster of instances as of today:

  1. Web server replica
  2. Oracle database replica
  3. CCERC Web replica
  4. Solr search replica
  5. Stealth authoritative DNS server (used in our DR process)
  6. Teaching With Data NSDL Pathway production service
  7. Teaching With Data NSDL Pathway staging server
  8. LDAP server supporting TWD
  9. SSDAN next generation production service
  10. SSDAN next generation development and staging server
  11. Content server for deep DR (located in the EU zone)

I think it's likely we'll move some of the replicas we run on behalf of the Minnesota Population Center to the cloud as well.

We've had great experiences with Amazon Web Services (AWS) so far: very low barrier to entry, and a very nice management tool in Elasticfox. The on-going operations have been stable and secure, and the price is right. And while I'm not sure I'd rely solely on the cloud for my archival storage solution, using the cloud to stash away one additional copy is very attractive.

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