Summer Job, Times Three

July 14, 2011

Working to improve the storage capacity of hard-drive disks, to reduce power consumption in modern data centers, and to alter and redesign a desktop application for the World Wide Web--all in one summer? Many may view this as an impossible feat, but to Anand Suresh, an INI student in the Master of Science in Information Networking program, it's reality.

In preparation for one day obtaining his PhD, Suresh is working three jobs this summer. Although this goal may be time-consuming, due to his experience at the INI, Suresh knows it is not impossible. "What seemed like a rather rigorous course-load during the semester actually allowed me to juggle tasks and manage time efficiently," he says. "Which has served me rather well over the summer given the number and diversity of the projects I am working on."

One of Suresh's positions this summer is as a researcher for the Parallel Data Lab (PDL) at Carnegie Mellon. In this position he works with Professor Garth Gibson to increase storage capacity on hard disk drives by using an emerging storage technology called Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR).

The emerging problem is that we are approaching the superparamagnetic limit (maximum number of bits per square inch that is possible) with current magnetic recording technology. Once this happens, it will be impossible to increase storage capacity without increasing the size of the drives. SMR technology hopes to improve the data density of current hard disk drives by partially overlapping previous tracks--reusing space and increasing capacity. It is Suresh's responsibility to study the use of SMR with current workloads at data centers to determine when it can be used effectively.

Suresh's interest in storage systems was first sparked during a paper presentation he did on RAID storage while pursuing his undergraduate degree. "Today, I'm working with the person (Garth Gibson) who first developed the concepts of RAID storage in the late 80s," exclaims Suresh. "Talk about a small world!"

In addition to his work at the PDL this summer, Suresh is also doing research for POW Solutions, a CMU-based start-up company that works to develop software solutions for modern data centers that both improve performance and reduce power consumption. Working with a team of just five people, Suresh works mainly with implementing their software on virtual machines.

"I have to figure out innovative ways to implement POW's software in a virtualized environment," Suresh states. "And then study the performance improvement and power savings."

While his work at these first two positions is mainly research or discovery based, Suresh's job at the Engineering and Public Policy department at CMU with post-doctoral fellow Lauren Fleishman is more straight-forward. For this position he works with a desktop application that allows users to state their preferences for electricity portfolios with Carbon Capture and Sequestration and other low-carbon technologies. Right now the application deals with energy demands for Pennsylvania over the next 25 years, but Suresh is working to alter the existing desktop application so that it can be modeled to different states or regions and allow for data collection and reporting.

Suresh can only hope that all the hard work he is putting in this summer will prepare him for the future. "I intend to enroll for a PhD program right after I finish my master's program at the INI," he says. "And I hope that the skills I pick up working on these projects will serve me well as I pursue my PhD."