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UITS Research Technologies

Cyberinfrastructure enabling research and creative activities

The Scholarly Data Archive (SDA) at Indiana University

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System overview

The Indiana University Scholarly Data Archive (SDA) provides extensive capacity (42 PB) for storing and accessing research data. The SDA is a distributed storage service co-located at IU data centers in Bloomington and Indianapolis. The SDA provides IU researchers with large-scale archival or near-line data storage, arranged in large files, with automatic off-site copies of data for disaster recovery.

Access is available to IU graduate students, faculty, and staff. Undergraduates and non-IU collaborators must have IU faculty sponsors. For details, see the "Research system accounts (all campuses)" section of What computing accounts are available at IU, and for whom?

The SDA supports high-performance access methods, such as parallel FTP (PFTP) and Hierarchical Storage Interface (HSI); an HPSS API is available for programmers, as well.

The SDA uses the consortium-developed High Performance Storage System (HPSS), a hierarchical storage management (HSM) software package that makes transparent to its users a hierarchy of storage media used to provide massive data storage capacity. This hierarchy includes disk caches totaling roughly 600 TB back-ending into two high-end tape libraries, providing a total uncompressed data storage capacity of nearly 15 PB. This near-line, tape-based storage system, mediated by fast, efficient disk caches, gives users the appearance of massive disk capacity at a fraction (usually a hundredth) of the cost of storing the same data on spinning disks.

Note: At IU, the initials SDA and HPSS are often used interchangeably to describe the same service.

Although the names of files files placed on the SDA remain visible to the user, the actual data migrate to tape when they haven't been accessed for a certain period of time. When data have migrated to tape, their retrieval can require up to two minutes per file as the tape robot must locates, mounts, and reads the appropriate tape. Due to the overhead involved in manipulating data this way, the SDA is not well suited for storing a large number of small files.

The SDA is the first HPSS system in the world to offer the hpssfs interface in production. The SDA is also the first HPSS system in the world to implement a remote data mover (at IUPUI). IU's remote data mover has demonstrated the feasibility of a widely distributed (i.e., across a wide area network or WAN) HPSS in which data stored and accessed by users at IUPUI are served locally by the IUPUI data mover at high, local area network (LAN) speeds. A small stream of metadata (administrative data about the files stored) flows on the WAN segment between IUB and IUPUI (this is necessary because the metadata engine is located at IUB). Such a widely, geographically distributed storage system design is highly cost effective and is of great interest to many.

Since the institution of the I-Light high-performance network between IUB and IUPUI in 2001, the SDA HPSS system is able to create two tape copies of user data (one at IUB and another at IUPUI), adding a degree of disaster tolerance to both sites.

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System information

Note: The SDA is offline for regularly scheduled maintenance every Sunday 7am-10am.

System configuration
Machine type Distributed HPSS data archive
Operating system Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5
Storage information
Network file system protocols HSI/HTAR, CIFS (Samba), SFTP/SCP, HTTPS
Total tape capacity 15 PB
Total disk capacity (cache) 600 TB
Quotas 50 TB (default) per user, 50 TB (default) per project; increases as needed
Backup and purge policies Dual copies of data, but no backups; system is never purged
Aggregate I/O 80 Gbps

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Working with ePHI research data

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) established rules protecting the privacy and security of personal health data. The HIPAA Security Rule set national standards specifically for the security of protected health information (PHI) that is created, stored, transmitted, or received electronically (i.e., electronic protected health information, or ePHI). To ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI data, the HIPAA Security Rule requires organizations and individuals to implement a series of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards when working with ePHI data.

Although you can use this system for processing or storing electronic protected health information (ePHI) related to official IU research:

  • You and/or the project's principal investigator (PI) are responsible for ensuring the privacy and security of that data, and complying with applicable federal and state laws/regulations and institutional policies. IU's policies regarding HIPAA compliance require the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB) approvals and a data management plan.

  • You and/or the project's PI are responsible for implementing HIPAA-required administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to any person, process, application, or service used to collect, process, manage, analyze, or store ePHI data.

The UITS Advanced Biomedical IT Core provides consulting and online help for Indiana University researchers who need help securely processing, storing, and sharing ePHI research data. If you need help or have questions about managing HIPAA-regulated data at IU, contact the ABITC. For additional details about HIPAA compliance at IU, see HIPAA & ABITC and the Office of Vice President and General Counsel (OVPGC) HIPAA Privacy & Security page.

Important: Although UITS HIPAA-aligned resources are managed using standards surpassing official standards for managing institutional data at IU and are appropriate for storing HIPAA-regulated ePHI research data, they are not recognized by the IU Committee of Data Stewards as appropriate for storing institutional data elements classified as Critical that are not ePHI data. For help determining which institutional data elements classified as Critical are considered ePHI, see Which data elements in the classifications of institutional data are considered protected health information (PHI)?

The IU Committee of Data Stewards and the University Information Policy Office (UIPO) set official classification levels and data management standards for institutional data in accordance with the university's Management of Institutional Data (DM-01) policy. If you have questions about the classifications of institutional data, contact the appropriate Data Steward. To determine the most sensitive classification of institutional data you can store on any given UITS service, see the "Choosing an appropriate storage solution" section of At IU, which dedicated file storage services and IT services with storage components are appropriate for sensitive institutional data, including ePHI research data?

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System access

To request an account on the Scholarly Data Archive (SDA) or Research File System (RFS), use the Account Management Service (AMS):

After submitting your account request, UITS will notify you via email when your account is ready for use.

For eligibility requirements, see the "Research system accounts (all campuses)" section in What computing accounts are available at IU, and for whom?

Once you have an SDA account, you can access it from any networked host that offers at least a TCP/IP-based FTP client.

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Transferring files

Methods available for transferring data to and from the Indiana University Scholarly Data Archive (SDA) include Kerberos-enabled FTP, parallel FTP (pftp_client), Hierarchical Storage Interface (HSI), secure FTP (SFTP), secure copy (SCP), SMB/CIFS/Windows file sharing (SMB), and https (via a web browser). For instructions, see:

The method you use depends on your operating system and level of comfort with the command line interface.

Access by pftp_client and hsi, the highest performing non-grid methods, requires installing special clients:

  • The pftp_client interface, available on Quarry and Mason, is compatible with only Unix and Linux. It is more efficient than hsi, allowing for parallel, high-bandwidth (up to 200 MB/s) data transfers between HPSS and jobs running on the IU research clusters. There is also a benefit in using pftp_client with sequential data transfers, because pftp_client arranges for a connection directly with an HPSS mover, so data do not have to flow through the transaction engine node. UITS recommends this model to researchers who plan to make very large data transactions and need high bandwidth.

  • The hsi interface is compatible with Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows, and is somewhat more functional than the pftp_client interface. It provides shell-like facilities for recursive operations, such as the ability to take data from standard input and force migration, as well as staging and purging.

For Windows or Mac OS X users who prefer a graphical interface, UITS recommends using a graphical SFTP client. For Mac OS X users, UITS recommends Fetch, especially if you intend to transfer large amounts of data.

Note: For reasons of code compatibility with future versions of HPSS, UITS introduced a redesigned version of the Scholarly Data Archive (SDA) web interface, which entered production January 3, 2015.

The new web interface functions much like the previous version, with a few exceptions:

If you have questions about the new SDA web interface, contact the UITS Research Storage team.

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See On the Scholarly Data Archive at IU, what are classes of service, and how do I use them?

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Acknowledging grant support

The Indiana University cyberinfrastructure managed by the Research Technologies division of UITS is supported by funding from several grants, each of which requires you to acknowledge its support in all presentations and published works stemming from research it has helped to fund. Conscientious acknowledgment of support from past grants also enhances the chances of IU's research community securing funding from grants in the future. For the acknowledgment statement(s) required for scholarly printed works, web pages, talks, online publications, and other presentations that make use of this and/or other grant-funded systems at IU, see If I use IU's research cyberinfrastructure, what sources of funding do I need to acknowledge in my published work?

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The SDA is maintained by the Research Storage team. If you have questions or need help, email Research Storage.

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