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An Education in Storage

Carnegie Mellon University has quietly built an enormous empire of storage R&D -- including a new center with a $22 million, five-year budget to investigate advanced storage media, and a lab sponsored by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) for storage software research, which is slated to open early next year.

What's CMU's draw? For one thing, it's got a long history of sponsored research for computer science technology. This has helped the university attract distinguished faculty, which in turn has helped fuel research grants and more industry sponsorship.

In the case of storage, this pattern has resulted in the formation of three distinct research facilities:

  • CMU Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC): This 18-year-old facility was just awarded $21.6 million to investigate new methods of optical data storage. While not focused specifically on storage networking, the lab's work will clearly have an impact on any vendor involved in the storage market. The DSSC was awarded the grant by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Other project participants include Seagate Technology Inc., MEMS Optical Inc., Advanced Research Corp., and the University of Arizona. An industry group called the National Storage Industry Consortium will act as administrator.

    "Seagate will be the leading industry participant, and two thirds of the research will probably take place at CMU," says a DSSC spokesman. Part of the reason, he notes, is that CMU also houses other key research projects that may help the cause.

  • CMU Parallel Data Laboratory: Here, 50 researchers join vendors to tackle "a broad spectrum of storage-related challenges, including storage security, emerging technologies, disk characterization and modeling, efficient storage access, storage networking, and network-attached storage clusters." Current projects are underway in self-security storage, IP storage, and "network-attached secure disks."
  • The new "Intel lab" (no Web site yet) is slated to open formally in December or early 2002. Headed up by Mahadev Satyanarayanan, a Carnegie Group professor of computer science, the lab will focus on developing software that manages data stored in some of the futuristic ways that the DSSC envisions. Included will be new types of file structures for distributed information.
  • And CMU's roster of storage-related research doesn't end here. There are a slew of other research labs and confabs squirreled away throughout the campus, such as the Center for Highly Integrated Information Processing and Storage Systems (CHIPS)