Twenty years ago, a connected college experience might involve cable television, rudimentary internet capability and the latest in flip phone technology. Fast forward to today, and students expect uninterrupted, lightning-fast connectivity from the device of their choice to support both their academic and community experience.

Is this quest for connectivity built on a virtual house of cards?

Technology proliferation has placed enormous pressure on the underlying IT infrastructure that keeps Wi-Fi operating, servers humming, videos streaming and data percolating. Within many institutions, one vital aspect of those operations–the storage foundation–is crumbling under the weight of growing demands. With budgets stagnant and resources limited, universities are stuck in a difficult position and finding it increasingly difficult to respond to student and faculty pleas for the latest and greatest apps.

Compute and networking operations have continually exploited the performance rewards delivered by exponentially more powerful silicon chips. Now it’s time for data centers to take advantage of the same potential in their storage systems.

So, are higher education institutions ready for a storage transformation? The short answer: they have to be, and the focus must be around creating a data platform designed for the cloud era.

Legacy storage systems‒those that rely on mechanical spinning disks‒have been around since the late 1950s‒long before the prospect of video streaming, online education, and the Internet of Things (IoT). While we’ve seen improvements over the years, the basic concept has remained the same‒while everything else in the data center has changed to respond to the need for scale and speed.

Traditional storage has become the weak link in the data center. From a speed and performance perspective, disk-based storage hasn’t kept pace with compute and network performance gains. Think of it as pitting a horse and buggy against an Indie car. This performance gap puts the entire data center stack out of balance. And, it will continue to progress until IT shifts its storage technology from traditional hard disk drives to exponentially faster solid-state disk (SSD) technology, commonly known as flash memory.

What does this storage performance lag mean for students and educators? The implications range from minor annoyances, such as the inability to load a last-minute homework assignment in time to a learning management platform, to strategic consequences, such as having to limit growth of online course offerings due to the inability to listen to video lectures without constant buffering.

Designed to Succeed

Today’s higher education institutions require a data platform capable of delivering data with speed, agility and intelligence, across increasingly complex workloads and applications. It also has to help them end the costly and perpetual rip-and-replace cycle for traditional systems.

What does a data platform for the cloud generation look like?

(Next page: 7 key characteristics for data and storage requirements today)

About the Author:

Nick Psaki is principal, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, at Pure Storage.


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