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Last update: April 28, 2010

  1. What is LabSTOR?

    LabSTOR is a pilot project that makes software applications remotely available to students and faculty from participating institutions.  The project reduces the need to create very complex software images for installation in local computing labs, at the same time providing easy access to specialized software from any location with a network connection.  LabSTOR also provides participating institutions with access to High Performance Computing resources in a shared environment.  The project is based on successful similar projects at North Carolina State and the University of Virginia.

  2. Why LabSTOR? Where did this idea come from?

    The project is the result of collaboration between four liberal arts colleges (Allegheny, Harvey Mudd, Middlebury and Occidental).  It is managed by The LongSight Group, which also provides the infrastructure. Each of the four colleges wanted access to a Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) but saw that it did not make sense to try to build out the infrastructure needed by themselves.

  3. What are examples of software that work in this environment?

    The real question is what doesn't work!  Take a look at the list of applications that run at NC State in this environment: http://vcl.ncsu.edu/help/applications-images/what-vcl-applications-environments-are-generally-available-ncsu-users

  4. Can I get a look at it?

    If you would like to try out the system, please contact the Longsight Group, who can arrange for a trial account. 

Logistical Questions
  1. Who can join?

    Any non-profit

  2. How do I join?

    You can commit to joining by sending an email to Scott Siddall from Longsight.
  3. How much does it cost?

    $5,00 per year for two years. A two year commitment is required.

  4. How many other members are there?

    The pilot program requires that we have at least 25 schools participate.
  6. How will software licensing work?
    Licensing should be considered the responsibility of each participating institution: whatever you intend to use in VCL, you need to license, including Windows OS licenses. On Windows OS, you should read this article: http://community.citrix.com/x/14CZBw which may impact your options if you use Microsoft SA licensing.

    Our understanding, and our capabilities as a collective, may develop over time. This current strategy is consistent with our research into the plans of other collaborative VCL projects, and is also consistent with our research into cloud vendors: the project or vendor just provides infrastructure, while institutions license their OS and applications.

Technical Questions
  1. Is there commercial peering with I2?

    We are investigating that question; we believe it will be available but we are awaiting a final answer. Stay tuned!
  2. What are the bandwidth requirements/constraints?

    The protocols used are either RDP (to access windows application environments) or ssh (to access linux environments).  Both are protocols that work well over low bandwidth connections, but generally speaking the more you have, the better your experience will be.
  3. How many images can we store on VCL?

    We have not set an upper limit, although as a group we may need to develop standards if one of our partners is being unreasonable in needing thousands of images. But we don't anticipate that.

  4. Can this be used for document storage?

    Not a good idea.  Images are created and placed on blade servers automatically.  So as soon as your session expires your data will go away.  However, it is possible to connect to more permanent storage systems (including back to your own desktop and any network storage it can reach) from within an application environment.

  5. What is the back-out plan?

    We are looking for two year commitments. At the end of the first two years, you could, if you liked, download all of your images (application environments) and run them elsewhere.

  6. Where are data sets stored that apps need to access?

    Local storage (either your local hard drive or a mounted network drive) can be attached both to access data sets and to write results to.

  7. Are images built as part of the project?

    No. Each school will need to develop its own images. We will develop tutorials to help in that process, and we expect all the members of the pilot project will help each other out. The long range vision is that we will be able to offer shared images which will further reduce the local efforts required to support this.

  8. How often can images change?

    As often as you feel like changing them.
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