Proposal for LabSTOR: a college collaboration supported by the Longsight Group

Last modified November 1, 2011

Executive Summary

LabSTOR is a collaborative project through which members benefit by sharing virtual computing capacity. It is particularly appropriate for institutions that are developing a virtual computing program to support courses, and it will scale to provide additional resources as institutions’ needs grow. Potential members should be aware that this is a pilot project, not a fully-developed production environment. Consider this LabSTOR beta. We have completed a proof-of-concept test, which went very well, and we know how many concurrent sessions our servers can run while still delivering good performance. We have not yet determined how usage patterns will develop as members begin using LabSTOR in class settings. That is the goal of this stage of the project.

LabSTOR’s basic membership is designed to provide member institutions sufficient resources to support several courses with a virtual computing lab, 24/7 student and faculty access to specialized software as well as legacy software that requires older or non-standard operating systems, and high performance computing for short-term projects. For each basic membership purchased, the infrastructure is increased by eight virtual seats that are added to the shared pool of resources. For example, if we have 25 basic members, LabSTOR will have at least 200 shared seats. As their use grows, members may purchase additional resources to increase their access to shared resources.

We estimate that the minimum number of basic memberships needed to provide the scheduling flexibility we seek is twenty-five.

Benefits

Membership

Open to any non-profit higher education organization. An organization may purchase more than one basic membership.

Institutional Readiness

To benefit from and participate in LabSTOR, institutions must

Staff from Longsight are available to provide institution’s guidance about these readiness indicators. Institutions who may need help implementing an appropriate authentication environment or with building images can contract with Longsight for Tier 2 support to help them build the capacity to participate in LabSTOR.

Service Description

Base membership entitles member institutions to

Each block of LabSTOR resources entitles the member to

For example, to support courses during one week, a member school that has purchased a base membership might reserve 20 seats for 9:00 am to 10:00 MWF (60 seat-hours) and 12 seats for 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. on Wednesday (36 seat-hours), and another 16 seats for 1:00 to 2:00 on Friday (16 seat hours). This would use up 112 of their 120 available reservable seat-hours for in-session times. Institutions may contract for additional blocks of LabSTOR resources and additional mass storage in blocks of 100 GB. For each additional resource block purchased, members will experience a commensurate increase in their access to resources. For example, by purchasing a second block, members can expect to reserve in advance up to 240 seat-hours per week during in-session times.

At least initially, resource sharing will be done on an honor system. Each institution participating in the LabSTOR project is expected to monitor its own usage and contract for additional resource blocks if needed.  Longsight will monitor usage for each institution and provide a dashboard showing real-time and historic use-levels by institution. A participating institution may request that its identity be masked in the online reports, otherwise identities will be shared. The Steering Committee will have access to unmasked reports by institution. Tracked usage includes seat-hours per week during in-session times, total seat-hours per week, sessions initiated, average length of session, and total resource use per week.

The LabSTOR Steering Committee will review resource usage by institution and contracted resource block. Should competition for resources prove to be too great--that is, LabSTOR becomes another example of the Tragedy of the Commons--the LabSTOR Steering Committee reserves the right to limit LabSTOR use of those schools using more than their “fair share.”  In extreme cases, when resource use is clearly in excess of fair use, such demands are unduly limiting the ability of other participants to take advantage of the LabSTOR resources, and the offending institution is unwilling or unable to manage its use appropriately, the Committee at its sole discretion may transfer the contract of the institution with LabSTOR to a contract with Longsight providing 8 virtual seats per resource block with no restrictions on usage and no ability to share unused capacity with other LabSTOR schools. If absolutely necessary, the Committee will ask Longsight to adjust the VCL software so that resource use limits on all participants can be established and enforced. Such measures will only be enacted as a last resort and after consultation with all participants. 

 

For each block of resources specified in a member contract, Longsight will provide resources to support eight VCL seats, 100 GB of mass storage, and one hour of Tier 2 or 3 support to be used at the discretion of the LabSTOR Steering Committee for VCL software development.

In addition, Longsight will

Resources will be managed by designated campus staff members using the Apache VCL Project software (current release is 2.2.1) hosted by Longsight.

Operationally, Longsight will mediate the uploading of base images using Tier 2 support hours; college staff will create derivative images by adding applications to base images, but faculty members can do this if college LabSTOR administrators allow it and they so choose.   College staff can reallocate resources for long-term computational work with non-expiring sessions (the HPC option) as needed.  All computing resources are accessible as either reserved/on-demand or HPC resources.

In addition to basic application hosting and maintenance, Longsight will make additional hours of Tier 2 and 3 support available at a fixed rate of $125/hr during the term of an agreement.  

 

Longsight will contract with each participating school using a common agreement form. Longsight will invoice each participating institution in advance for their annual fees as recommended by the LabSTOR Steering Committee.   Each participating institution will designate two LabSTOR administrators who will have group administrative privileges.  Local LabSTOR administrators will have primary responsibility for managing their campus’ use of LabSTOR resources; Longsight will assist by decrementing support hours which the LabSTOR Steering Committee can distribute or centralize as desired.

Each participating institution is responsible for ensuring that the software it is using in the LabSTOR environment is licensed appropriately for virtual services.

Pricing

Membership fees are as follows:

Base memberships are purchased on a two-year contract. Upgrades to a membership (the purchase of additional blocks) will be pro-rated to the end of the member schools’ contract term.  

Steering Committee and Governance

LabSTOR governance and the role of the Steering Committee is described at http://labstor.blogspot.com/p/governance.html. The Longsight Group will serve as LabSTOR's managing agent.