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Carmegeddon: System problems continue to frustrate students

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During a Carmen outage that lasted at least the better part of four days, some students lamented over the derailed site because of its necessity to their academic lives. Others, though, weren’t as concerned.

Carmen was 78.1 percent of the way back to being operational as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Office of the Chief Information Officer website.

The website was taken offline Sunday after a routine expansion of storage space on the website encountered an error, vice president and CIO Mike Hofherr said.

In the meantime, the OCIO has recommended ways professors can work around the Carmen outage while the website is down, including using email, Excel and Box — a separate website that offers free cloud storage and file sharing services — according to a release on its website. The release noted, however, there was no quality alternative to Carmen quizzes.

Hofherr said Carmen was created six or seven years ago and the team has updated the storage space several times since its creation. There hasn’t been a problem similar to this since the site went up, he said.

The team won’t know for sure what caused the problem until it runs root cause analysis — a method of problem-solving to determine what created the complication — next week. But Hofherr said the team does know that the problem occurred in the storage unit where Carmen is stored and affected multiple copies of the Carmen data, forcing the team to use a slower method than just restoring from Carmen’s primary backup to recover the data.

The cost to operate Carmen is included in an overall $1.9 million budget, which also includes costs of running other OSU software, said Kate Keune, spokeswoman for OCIO in an email.

Still, Hofherr said in a Tuesday email that he thought there would be minimal data loss, but it all depends on what backup procedure the team can fully implement.

“We are running two concurrent backup restores, both with different outcomes,” he said.

Hofherr said the team decides how much space Carmen needs before the start of each semester. Last week, while the team began looking at how much storage space Carmen would need for Spring Semester, they discovered the storage system was filled to 94 percent of its capacity, or what the team calls “critical mass.”

“We usually know Carmen’s space capacity and we can expand it,” Hofherr told The Lantern during a earlier phone conversation. “We saw it was low and we decided to use the routine maintenance window to upgrade storage.”

More space was taken up than expected because of online class expansions and digital scholarships, according to a release on the OCIO website. Kuene said these scholarships do not include scholarships in the financial aid sense, but rather online educational activities.

She said the site was expected to expand to 18 terabytes from 14 terabytes, which would cost an additional $400.

Expanding the site costs $100 extra per month per terabyte. The Office of Distance Education and eLearning pays the money to OCIO.

Some students were more affected by the outage than others.

Matt Spies, a fourth-year in bio engineering, said he can’t access many of his class materials.

“I think it’s a pain in the a– because I can’t get to notes and stuff on Carmen,” he said.

Jim Brown, a fourth-year in operations management, agreed the outage makes school more difficult.

“I can’t access any of the files and lecture notes so it makes it difficult to study,” he said.”Carmen could be better organized. and hopefully they end up improving it through the update they were originally going for.”

Kate Smidl, a fourth-year in speech and hearing science, said she takes her own notes and prints out notes she needs from Carmen, so the outage isn’t as big of a deal for her.

“People are freaking out because they’re like, ‘I can’t take online quizzes,’” she said. “Also, some people don’t take their own notes. They just use notes on Carmen.”

Smidl did say she was having problems, though, because she needed certain readings from Carmen to write a paper but she hadn’t printed them.

But she said she thought overall the website’s outage was overblown.

“I feel like the teachers are struggling more than we are,” she said.

Jeff Zidonis contributed to this article.

One comment

  1. OSU IT needs some attention here. The aged bureaucratic management and work process has young good developers leave for more opportunistic organizations. Meanwhile, the money-hole contractors are coasting on stagnant inefficient work processes where quality of product and deadlines mean nothing.

    All your good managers and developers have left. Wake up.

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