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Press Release

Contact: Chriss Swaney
412-268-5776

For immediate release:
April 11, 2002

Carnegie Mellon Engineering Faculty Join Academic Peers to Redefine Technical Education

PITTSBURGH—Storage systems are at the heart of the "information age." While the Internet is a network, the Web is a storage system. Moreover, storage systems hold the lifeblood of most organizations: their information. When they fail or are successfully attacked, everything digital stops. In terms of dollars, storage capital costs account for more than 50% of total information technology (IT) capital costs, and will rise to 75% in the near future, according to IDC and the Gartner Group. Furthermore, storage management costs are four to seven times greater than capital costs, easily making storage systems the centerpiece of any IT infrastructure.

Carnegie Mellon's Parallel Data Lab (PDL) is pushing the state-of-the-art in storage systems, helping to make Pittsburgh into a hotbed of storage research and development, and something of a "storage Mecca." Under the direction of Professor Greg Ganger, PDL researchers are developing technologies to address tomorrow's biggest storage problems, making storage infrastructures more secure, ubiquitous, reliable, manageable, cost-effective and less of a bottleneck to overall system performance. Founded in 1993 by Professor Garth Gibson, the PDL has grown from 8 researchers to more than 40 with a budget exceeding $2.5 million per year. Now, the PDL is academia's premiere research center in storage systems.

PDL research is inventing solutions to critical problems of storage system design, implementation and evaluation, such as

  • Surviving failures in and malicious attacks on storage infrastructures
  • Mitigating the performance limitations of mechanical disks
  • Simplifying and automating storage management
  • Developing and integrating new storage technologies

Perhaps the most eye-catching research by Ganger's group is their use of "self-storing devices" to create digital infrastructures that survive attacks and intrusions. Self-securing devices treat their interfaces as security perimeters and defend their own critical resources. By having these separate enclaves of security, a network of computers under siege gains additional secure outposts from which to defend the network, according to Ganger. Promising examples are self-securing network cards and self-securing storage devices.

"So, infiltration of one security perimeter will only compromise a small fraction of the entire digital infrastructure," Ganger said. Other devices can still work to identify the problem, contain it and alert other areas untouched by the intruder.

Another PDL project focused on surviving attacks, called "PASIS," spreads user data over many storage servers to provide confidentiality, integrity and availability even when attackers capture some of the servers. In addition to developing the core architecture, PDL researchers are figuring out how different design decisions and data encodings dictate security and performance. Other PDL projects are creating self-managing storage systems, squeezing free bandwidth from busy disks, defining better storage interfaces, developing tools to automatically diagnose storage and exploring amazing new storage technologies. For example, PDL researchers are working with others at Carnegie Mellon to explore MEMS-based storage — these remarkable devices merge magnetic recording material and thousands of recording heads into a computer chip the size of a fingernail for a fraction of the cost of larger systems.

The PDL is also creating education programs in storage systems. "Storage systems are the least understood areas of computer systems, and universities provide little education in this area," Ganger said. "At Carnegie Mellon, we are now teaching a first class about the design, implementation and use of storage systems." In addition to Ganger's lectures, the class features eight presentations by industry leaders.

PDL research is supported by government sources and most major storage systems companies, including EMC, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, Network Appliance, Panasas, Seagate, Sun and Veritas. Each year, more than 50 technical leaders from the storage industry visit Carnegie Mellon to attend PDL events and interact with PDL researchers. The next such event, an informal one-day PDL showcase on April 11, brings 20 such leaders to Carnegie Mellon for discussions and PDL demonstrations.

PDL's focus on storage systems complements Carnegie Mellon's other storage research powerhouse, the Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC), which is academia's premiere research center on storage technology. Like PDL, the DSSC brings dozens of storage leaders to Pittsburgh each year. In addition, industry peers say that Carnegie Mellon's data storage research and educational programs helped attract both Seagate and Intel to open storage research labs in Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon researchers have also founded promising storage start-ups in Pittsburgh, such as Panasas and Spinnaker, in Pittsburgh. Altogether, the storage research and development activity in Pittsburgh is second to none.

How will improved storage systems protect information?

Greg Ganger, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Carnegie Mellon University.

Carnegie Mellon's Greg Ganger leads a group of researchers, called the Parallel Data Lab, who are developing technologies that will make storage systems more secure and cost effective. Storage systems are the lifeblood of a company's information network. So, if they are successfully attacked, everything digital stops. For example, Ganger and his group are working on a system called PASIS, which spreads user data over many storage servers to provide integrity and availability even when attackers capture some of the servers.

Contact: Greg Ganger 412-268-1297.

Where will tomorrow's companies find storage system engineers?

Greg Ganger, associate professor of electrical and compute engineering, Carnegie Mellon University.

The Parallel Data Lab at Carnegie Mellon is creating education programs in storage systems. PDL Director Greg Ganger is teaching a new class about the design, implementation and use of storage systems. In addition to Ganger's lectures, the class features eight presentations by industry leaders. Industry experts estimate that the need for storage system technicians will increase by 60 percent in 2004.

Contact: Greg Ganger 412-268-1297

Is the data storage industry prepared for change and restructuring?

Pradeep Khosla, head of electrical and computer engineering, Carnegie Mellon University.

Carnegie Mellon University's new Center for Computer and Communications Security will develop technologies to protect industry data and work to understand how different design decisions and data encodings dictate security and performance. The new center also will explore how to better track the increasing number of new web viruses launched daily by hackers and cybersecurity thiefs to disrupt the Net - the world's growing information highway. The center's biggest challenge will be to study how the Net's power to transform communication will play out unevenly and in many new stages.

Contact: Pradeep Khosla 412-268-5090.

How will MEMS-based storage evolve?

Rick Carley, ST Microelectronics Professor of electrical and computer engineering, Greg Ganger, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Gary Fedder, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Carnegie Mellon University.

Carnegie Mellon researchers are exploring MEMS-based storage - these remarkable devices merge magnetic recording material and thousands of recording heads into a computer chip the size of a fingernail for a fraction of the cost of larger systems.

Contact: Rick Carley 412-268-3597, Greg Ganger 412-268-1297 or Gary Fedder 412-268-8443.
Contact: Chriss Swaney 412-268-5776

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