Domain of One’s Own: a Peek at the Cyberinfrastructure

Last week Tim Owens and I mapped out the technical infrastructure of Domain of One’s Own as we prepare the purchasing request and generally ramp up for the roll out in Fall 2013. The image below is the result of our brainstorming:

Let me try and lay it out for anyone interested in the technical details of how we’re planning on doing this thing, and for how much money.

In the center of the image you see the server, at least immediately it will be a hosted, managed server through a serve like Rackspace. For roughly $350 /month we’ll get 8 GB RAM (4 virtual CPUs) and 320 GB storage, and we’ll be charged roughly .18 cents per GB of bandwidth each month. That server setup is roughly twice what we are running currently, and for another $100 a month we can get it managed, which means OS updates, general server maintenance, and someone who will listen to our issues. So, for a managed server with 1 TB of bandwidth each month we are looking at $630 a month just for the server (or $7560 per year).

But let’s not get too excited yet, we’ll need to add some costs to that. We decided we prefer CPanel to Plesk, so we have to pay a $450 yearly license fee for CPanel. Also, we need to pay $25 a year for Installatron (which rocks by the way), and a one time fee of $325 for the WCHMS e-commerce software we will be installing on the server to seamlessly map domains on the proper webhosting accounts. Tim Owens has outlined all of these particulars in his amazing series of posts on building a Domain of One’s Own (I can’t recommend it strongly enough). So, that’s another $475 yearly, with a one-time cost of $325. That brings us to just over $8,000 for the managed server.

Now we have to budget for the domains. For the first year we have budgeted $9,450.00 for 1000 domains, or $9.45 a domain. Keep in mind not every freshman will want a domain, but everyone will have access to one. We’ll be putting a pot of money in a domain registrar, and every time someone orders a domain it will take the money from the pot. We’ve do this for the pilot we are currently running with MediaTemple, and that has worked quite nicely. We’re interested in working with ENOM because they are the biggest wholesaler and we can get a good per domain price, they allow us to put down the full $9450 for domains, and just pull against that money. Now, as the project scales to all UMW students over a four year period, the costs for domains will go up accordingly. $9450 each year for 4 years, as well as a fifth thrown in for all students for transitioning time. At full capacity this would be roughly $47,500 to maintain the server and the domains. That said, we all know the number of people experimenting with this will be a fraction of the entire population, probably anywhere from 20-30% of the university population will actually get a domain, which means the real cost over time will be closer to $16,000 ongoing for domains.

So, between software, a managed server, and domains we are talking about $24,000 a year in infrastructure to run this project if 33% of the student body and faculty get their own domain. Also, we’ve built in $5,000 a year for development (stuff like smarter syndication, aggregation, etc.) and $25,000 a year for a part-time position to manage the project.

So, in order to re-imagine the cyberinfrastructure of a school like UMW, and give every member of the community access to their own web hosting and a domain for five years would cost at most $85,000 a year after 5 years (including hosting, 5000 domains, a half-time positon, and development) but it’s much more likely it will be an ongoing cost of around $54,000 after 5 years (including hosting, 1700 domains, a half-time position, and development).

I think by tech standards this is still remarkably cheap, especially when you consider what we’re imagining for the campus all told (we already saved UMW close to $2500 in Bluehost accounts with their migration to umwdomains), but it still seems expensive to me because we have been so used to not trying to imagine our work at this level. What is so remarkable to me about Domain of One’s Own is that it starts to really push DTLT’s experimentation to the next level in regards to scale, and I’m thinking particularly about our initiative this Spring which will introduce 29 faculty to the wonders of this project in five cohorts that a member of DTLT and/or Mary Kayler will be running. So, DTLT, in addition to all its regular work, will be working with 29 faculty (broken up into 5 cohorts) over the course of the next six weeks to talk about the conceptual and technical framework undergirding this initiative. Now that is instructional technology at a new level. Any school even imagining something like that with so many faculty? No, I didn’t think so, but more on that in my next post :)

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