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TU Berlin deploys ownCloud for cloud storage and file sharing

Author: Adrian Offerman

The Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin) has deployed the open source software package ownCloud to provide cloud storage and file sharing services to 10,000 students and employees, making this one of the largest deployment of ownCloud worldwide. Each of the students and employees has 20 or 100 Gbyte, respectively, at his or her disposal. As the ownCloud software will be integrated into the existing IT processes of different areas of research, teaching and administration, the number of users will increase to more than 30,000.

Security and stability

Main reason to use ownCloud is its support for all sorts of desktop and mobile platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and iOS). All files are synchronised in a secure way (using WebDAV over SSL/TLS connections) and stored locally, that way adhering to Germany's strict data protection and privacy regulations.

Although the ownCloud software provides over a dozen other services — e.g. contacts, calendaring and webmail — the university sticks with the functionality for syncing and sharing files, and the gallery, music and documents apps. We are often asked to provide the contact and calendar apps, Dr. Thomas Hildmann, head of department Infrastructure, tubIT, explains, but we already have solutions to that purpose and we don't want to duplicate the effort. Furthermore, we have to check and test every app on each regular update, so we look critically at each proposed app to see whether it fits in our environment and is stable enough to be used on a large scale.

ownCloud-as-a-service

The IT department (tubIT) started this project in 2012 and introduced the ownCloud service in May 2013, using the Community Edition of ownCloud. Last September, the software — now dubbed tubCloud — was upgraded to version 6 Enterprise Edition, allowing the department to provide ownCloud as a service to other universities. The service is part of the DFN-Cloud (Deutsches Forschungsnetz, the German Research Network) and available to every member, says Hildmann. Each instance can get its own URL and web branding. The costs are limited to the ownCloud Enterprise licenses and a share in the expense for the hardware.

The TU Berlin has already deployed several other open source software packages, i.e. Apache, Exim, MySQL, OpenLDAP, Shibboleth and others for the core infrastructure, the TYPO3 CMS, DokuWiki, GitLab and Subversion for software projects, and the Andrew File System. Furthermore, the university just launched a Live Linux distribution for their students, which automatically configures itself for Mail, Wi-Fi, VPN, tubCloud and other services.

Our strategy is service-based, says Hildmann. We aim to provide innovative, stable and useful services to our students and colleagues. To reach this goal, we mix open and closed source, free and commercial software.

video presentation Thomas Hildmann: