Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, TJ Randall

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, @DXWorldExpo

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

Case Study: Accelerate - Academic Research | @CloudExpo @DDN_limitless #Cloud #Storage

UCL transforms research collaboration and data preservation with scalable cloud object storage appliance from DDN

University College London (UCL), ranked consistently as one of the top five universities in the world, is London's leading multidisciplinary university with more than 10,000 staff , over 26,000 students as well as more than 100 departments, institutes and research centers. With 25 Nobel Prize winners and three Fields medalists among UCL's alumni and staff, the university has attained a world-class reputation for the quality of its teaching and research across the academic spectrum.

As London's premier research institution, UCL has 5,000 researchers committed to applying their collective strengths, insights and creativity to overcome problems of global significance. The university's innovative, cross-disciplinary research agenda is designed to deliver immediate, medium and long-term benefits to humanity. UCL Grand Challenges, which encompass Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing, are a central feature of the university's research strategy.

According to Dr. J. Max Wilkinson, Head of Research Data Services for the UCL Information Services Division, sharing and preserving project-based research results is essential to the scientific method. "I was brought in to provide researchers with a safe and resilient solution for storing, sharing, reusing and preserving project-based data," he explains. "Our goal is to remove the burden of managing project data from individual researchers while making it more available over longer periods of time."

The Challenge
The opportunity to improve the sharing and access of project-based research presented several unique technical and cultural challenges. On the technical side, the team had to accommodate a variety of different types of data, growing in volume and velocity. In some cases, a small amount off data is so valuable to a research team that six discrete copies were retained on separate USB drives or removable hard drives kept in different locations. In other instances, UCL researchers produce copious amounts of very well-defined data that pass between compute algorithms under which research sits.

In addition to solving technical problems, the research data services team was faced with the opportunity to support researchers in a new ‘data-intensive' world by making it safe and easy to follow best practices in data management and use best-of-class storage solutions. "We discovered the valuable data underpinning most research projects were stuck on a hard drives or disk, never to be seen again," adds Wilkinson. "If we could provide a framework over which people could share and preserve data confidently, we could minimize this behavior and improve research by making the scholarly rerecord more complete."

To accomplish this, UCCLL needed to provide an enterprise-class foundation for data manipulation that met the needs of its diverse user community. While some researchers thought 100GB was a large amount of data, others clamored for more than 100TB to support a particular project. There was also an expectation that up to 3,000 individuals from UCL's total base of 5,000 active researchers and collaborators would require services within the next 18-to-24 months.

"We had a simple services proposition that would eliminate the need for research teams to manage racks of servers and data storage devices," says Wilkinson. "Of course, this meant we'd need a highly scalable storage infrastructure that could grow to 100PB without creating a large storage footprint or excessive administrative overhead."

Additionally, they had to address long-term data retention needs that extended well beyond the realm of research projects. UCL, along with many other UK research intensive institutes, is faced with increasingly stringent requirements for the management of project data outputs by UK Research Councils and other funding bodies in the United Kingdom. As grant funding in the UK supports best practice, it was critical to have a proven data management plan that documented how UCL would preserve data for sometimes decades while ensuring maximum appropriate access and reuse by third parties.

The Solution
In seeking a scalable, resilient storage foundation, UCL issued an RFP to solicit insight on different approaches for consolidating the university's research data storage infrastructure. Each of the 21 RFP respondents was asked to provide examples of large-scale deployments, which produced far-ranging answers, including how providers addressed sheer data volume, reduced increasingly complex environments or delivered overarching data management frameworks.

UCL's RFP covered a diverse set of requirements to determine each potential solution provider's respective strengths and limitations. "We asked for more than we thought possible from a single vendor-from a synchronous file sharing to a high performance parallel file system, highly scalable, resilient storage that would be simple to manage," notes Daniel Hanlon, Storage Architect for Research Data Services at University College London. "We wanted to cover our bases while determining what was practical and doable for researchers."

Recommendations encompassed a broad storage spectrum, including NAS, SAN, HSM, object storage, asset management solutions and small amounts of spinning disks with lots of back-end tape. "Because we had such broad requirements, we omitted any vendor that was bound to a particular hardware platform," explains Wilkinson. "It was important to be both data and storage agnostic so we would have the flexibility to support all data and media types without being locked into any particular hardware platform."

With its ability to support virtually unlimited scalability, object storage appealed to UCL, especially since it also would be much easier to manage than alternatives. Still, object storage was seen as a relatively new technology and UCL lacked hands-on experience with large-scale deployments within the university's ecosystem. In addition to evaluating the different technologies, UCL also assessed each provider's understanding of their environment, as it was critically important to accommodate UCL's researcher requirements in order to drive acceptance. "Some of the RFP respondents didn't understand the difference between the corporate and academic worlds, and the fact that universities by nature generally have to avoid being tied into particular closed technologies," adds Hanlon. "Many of the RFP respondents were eliminated, not because of their technical response, but because they didn't really get what we were trying to do."

As a result, the universe of prospective solutions was reduced to a half-dozen recommendations. As the team took a closer look at the finalists, they considered each vendor's academic track record, ability to scale without overburdening administrators and experience with open-source technology. "We wanted to work with a storage solutions provider that took advantage of open-source solutions," Hanlon notes. "This would enable us to partner with them and also with other academic institutions trying to do similar things."

In the final analysis, UCL wanted a partner with equal enthusiasm for freeing researchers from the burden of data storage so they could maximize the impact of their projects. "We were very interested in building a relationship with a strong storage partner to fill our technology gap," says Wilkinson. "After a thorough assessment, DataDirectTM Networks (DDN) met our technical requirements and shared our data storage vision. In evaluating DDN, we agreed that their solution had a simple proposition, high performance and low administration overhead."

The proposed solution, which included the GRIDScaler massively scalable parallel file system and Web Object Scaler (WOS), also provided the desired scalability and management simplicity. Another plus for WOS storage was its tight integration with the Integrated Rule-Oriented Data Management Solution (iRODS). This open-source solution is ideally suited for research collaboration by making it easier to organize, share and find collections of data stored in local and remote repositories.

"It was important that DDN's solution gave us multiple ways to access the same storage, so we could be compatible with existing application codes," says Hanlon. "The tendency with other solutions was to give us bits of technology that had been developed in different spaces and that didn't really fit our problem."

The Benefits
During a successful pilot implementation involving a half-petabyte of storage, UCL gained first-hand insight into the advantage of DDN's turnkey distributed storage and collaboration solution. "The main attraction of DDN WOS is the combination of an efficient object store with edge appliances to ease integration with other storage infrastructure," says Hanlon. Another big plus for UCL is DDN's high-density storage capacity, which will enable fitting a lot more disks into existing storage racks, which is crucial to growing while maintaining a small footprint in UCL's highly-congested, expensive downtown London location.

As researchers are often reluctant to give up control of their data storage solutions, the team also has been pleased to discover early adopters who see the value of using the new service to protect and preserve current data assets. In fact, the new research data service already is getting high marks for performance reliability, data durability, data backup and disaster recovery capabilities.

UCL predicts that as traction for the new service increases, there will be greater interest in leveraging it to further extend how current research is reused and exploited to drive more impactful outcomes. By taking this innovative approach, the UCL Research Data Services team is embracing the open data movement while enlisting leading-edge technologies to deliver reliable, flexible data access that maximizes appropriate sharing and re-use of research data.

Additionally, UCL is taking the researcher worry of meeting increasingly strong expectations from funding organizations out of the storage equation with its plans to add a scalable archive to its dynamic storage service offering. "We'll be able to tell researchers that if they use our services, they'll be compliant with UCL, UK Research Council and other UK and international funding bodies' policies and requirements," Wilkinson says. "They won't have to worry about it because we will."

By providing a framework over which UCL researchers can store and share data confidently, UCL expects to achieve significant bottom-line cost savings. Early projections around the initial phase of the infrastructure build out are upwards of hundreds of thousands of UK pounds, simply by eliminating the need for thousands of researchers to attain and maintain their own storage hardware. "DDN is empowering us to deliver performance and cost savings through a dramatically simplified approach; in doing so we support UCL researchers, their collaborators and partners to maintain first class research at London's global university," concludes Wilkinson. "Add in the fact that DDN's resilient, extensible storage solution provided evidence of seamless expansion from a half-petabyte to 100PBs, and we found exactly the foundation we were looking for."

More Stories By Pat Romanski

News Desk compiles and publishes breaking news stories, press releases and latest news articles as they happen.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
In this presentation, you will learn first hand what works and what doesn't while architecting and deploying OpenStack. Some of the topics will include:- best practices for creating repeatable deployments of OpenStack- multi-site considerations- how to customize OpenStack to integrate with your existing systems and security best practices.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Archi...
Digital transformation has increased the pace of business creating a productivity divide between the technology haves and have nots. Managing financial information on spreadsheets and piecing together insight from numerous disconnected systems is no longer an option. Rapid market changes and aggressive competition are motivating business leaders to reevaluate legacy technology investments in search of modern technologies to achieve greater agility, reduced costs and organizational efficiencies. ...
As organizations shift towards IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. Commvault can ensure protection, access and E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Part...
"With Digital Experience Monitoring what used to be a simple visit to a web page has exploded into app on phones, data from social media feeds, competitive benchmarking - these are all components that are only available because of some type of digital asset," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
It is ironic, but perhaps not unexpected, that many organizations who want the benefits of using an Agile approach to deliver software use a waterfall approach to adopting Agile practices: they form plans, they set milestones, and they measure progress by how many teams they have engaged. Old habits die hard, but like most waterfall software projects, most waterfall-style Agile adoption efforts fail to produce the results desired. The problem is that to get the results they want, they have to ch...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service.
HyperConvergence came to market with the objective of being simple, flexible and to help drive down operating expenses. It reduced the footprint by bundling the compute/storage/network into one box. This brought a new set of challenges as the HyperConverged vendors are very focused on their own proprietary building blocks. If you want to scale in a certain way, let's say you identified a need for more storage and want to add a device that is not sold by the HyperConverged vendor, forget about it...
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors!
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.