(This is from a document created by Dan Green in ECE and modified for the College of Engineering IT)
OIT will soon be announcing that AFS will be retired on campus on Dec 31st, 2022.
Started in the College of Engineering in 1990 (see https://it.engr.ncsu.edu/history-of-eos/ for its history), AFS has been a backbone service to the College of Engineering for over 30 years. ITECS has maintained the Eos Cell of AFS for long time.
Why are we doing this?
- The cost of providing space, paying for AFS licenses is expensive.
- The professionals with the expertise of running AFS servers are leaving or soon to retire.
- Space allocations cannot keep up with our needs.
ITECS has been preparing for a long time to minimize the effect on our users. The impacts and our responses to this change in campus infrastructure will focus on 5 different elements.
ITECS is currently working on upgrading and moving servers to Amazon Web Services. This will include migrating the use of AFS web storage to AWS as well.
We’re still in the process of migrating our systems to AWS and OIT platforms. The migration will keep ITECS busy, but there should be no direct impact on our users.
The AFS Home Directory for students’ files and coursework has been around for a long time. For many years this was a tiny 2GB space, and more recently, a less tiny 10GB space.
OIT plans to merge this into the file servers currently providing the “B” drive to campus Windows users (not actively used in Engineering), but present these shares to Linux systems as a more compatible NFS file share. Work is ongoing for this effort. ITECS plans on expanding our storage amounts, although we will be working with OIT to make sure we are provisioning sustainable amounts for Engineering students. Currently that means sustaining the 10GB provision per student.
NonECE computers will be able to mount these locations as well if they’re actively running the campus VPN client (both on and off-campus).
Various Engineering IT staff throughout the College are going to be working with OIT to write new login scripts to deploy to these workstations to find a middle ground of moving these systems to local home directories while maintaining some of the experience users see now with their documents and configuration files appearing to move from system to system.
There are departments within the College that use AFS for commercial Linux applications, allowing us to maintain many applications with minimal staff and provide access to hundreds of systems (we’ve found that many EDUs will limit their installations to dedicated servers for each application) at once. And we provide access to these applications through the use of our “add” system.
Moving forward, Engineering IT departments will begin installing all applications into a new NFS location. No more installations to AFS will occur. By the time AFS is removed, we hope to have a few different versions/generations of each application available on NFS.
And we are taking the opportunity to replace the “add” system — which is a custom application created here at NC State and solely used on campus — with a more universal (and open source) environment management tool — “modules” (specifically https://lmod.readthedocs.io/en/latest/). We’re in the process of writing up user documentation on how to use the new system, but it’s not particularly complicated. You’ll find it very easy to adapt. And as the software is used in research centers and universities across the world, it will be better supported and something that many of our users will already have experience with (an older version is currently used on the NC State HPC service).
We recognize that researchers will need to update their automation scripts to switch from “add” to “module,” and we’ll provide details on this soon (new sections of our Linux Manual https://go.ncsu.edu/ece-linux will cover this). We’re still installing applications into NFS, but we already have the newest versions of Matlab, Mathematica, Maple, ADS, Quartus, and Xilinx tested and ready to go into production. And we’re almost done with the Cadence suite, Synopsys, and the Mentor EDA tools.
Instructors will need to plan to update their course manuals during Summer 2022 so their Fall 2022 classes will no longer reference AFS or “add” commands. While AFS will technically still exist during the Fall semester, it should only be considered a fallback solution (and limited to older application installations).
We cannot simply “move” applications from AFS to NFS, so users of older AFS applications will be contacted next year and encouraged to start switching to the newer installs in NFS.
Regarding storage for researchers, OIT began providing large chunks of space a couple of years ago, and we’ve been working since to improve that service’s support of Linux so we could encourage our faculty to take advantage of it.
Research space in AFS has always been limited — a few GBs of data here and there. A 10GB chunk when we were lucky. The new Research Storage (https://research.oit.ncsu.edu) provides 2TB of space for all faculty members. And another 2TB of space for each of that faculty member’s funded research projects — and these project lockers can be increased (for free) up to 30TB as needed. Researchers requiring more space will fund allocations above the 30TB threshold against their grant accounts.
The campus has long wanted to consolidate its research data, and we now have a scalable (and funded) solution that allows for this.
Researchers can use the web interface to provide their students access to these shares. Some departments like ECE have already mounted them on all ECE workstations/servers at /mnt/research-faculty and /mnt/research-projects (and on the Z drive for Windows users). NonECE computers will be able to mount these locations as well if they’re actively running the campus VPN client (both on and off-campus).
We’ve already used this space to migrate researchers with primarily Windows systems off of aging college and departmental file servers and then retire those servers. Over the next year, Engineering IT groups will be working with faculty based in Linux to move their research data out of /afs/eos/lockers/research/(x department) and into these new NFS servers.
Technically, the College of Engineering killed off this service in early 2020, but we’ve been able to accommodate a few courses which couldn’t live without shared AFS space for group projects.
We’re working with OIT to provide a chunk of NFS space that will allow the College to continue to provide storage for this purpose.
The retirement of AFS will be a significant change for the College of Engineering, but well planned and will benefit us in the long run.
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