For example, while it isn't too painful for Clemson to shift IP addresses from its main data center to a smaller center on campus because they share subnets, when you start doing that over long distances and with multiple locations, it becomes extremely difficult, Wilson says. OpenFlow should vastly simplify the task by allowing dynamic networks to be created and changed at the infrastructure level, but also at the application level, opening up significant opportunities for improvement in network flexibility and security.
While it is unclear when and if Clemson will be able to profit from work on OpenFlow, it is already profiting from OrangeFS and other software that is licensed through Omnibond Systems, Wilson says. For example, companies interested in OrangeFS can purchase a 10-server bundle from Omnibond with support for $45,000.
Other Clemson work that Omnibond licenses includes identity management tools (including drivers for Novell's Identity Manager) and even traffic vision technology that state transportation departments can use to help turn roadside video feeds into sensors.
While the license fees help offset Clemson IT costs, the work also helps attract and keep really good people, Wilson says.
As important as the HPC cluster is, if it goes down, "researchers understand that's the way life goes," says CTO Pepin. "If the enterprise side goes down, we get fired. It's a smaller portion of the computer electrical power but 90% of the pain, so we care deeply about it."
The enterprise side of the data center includes a mainframe that supports two major systems, the main Medicaid system for the state and the university's student information system, which includes financial aid and registration. "We're on the front end of a transition to a new Medicaid system based on MITA (the Medical Information Technology Architecture) and a student information system replacement project, so the mainframe will be gone in about five years," CIO Bottum says. The new systems will be based on redundant commodity hardware and virtual machines.
The rest of the enterprise infrastructure -- some 700 x86 boxes, mostly Dell and Sun with a little bit of IBM mixed in -- supports about 155 applications, including everything from email and payroll to the school's Blackboard course management system. Most of the machines are running Linux but there is a modest amount of specific-purpose Windows and some Unix. "Our direction is to move toward Linux," Pepin says.
Enterprise computing row (Photo by Zac Wilson)