Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Kevin Jackson, Progress Blog, Jason Bloomberg

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
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
"I focus on what we are calling CAST Highlight, which is our SaaS application portfolio analysis tool. It is an extremely lightweight tool that can integrate with pretty much any build process right now," explained Andrew Siegmund, Application Migration Specialist for CAST, 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.
As many know, the first generation of Cloud Management Platform (CMP) solutions were designed for managing virtual infrastructure (IaaS) and traditional applications. But that's no longer enough to satisfy evolving and complex business requirements. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, Embotics CTO, explored how next-generation CMPs ensure organizations can manage cloud-native and microservice-based application architectures, while also facilitating agile DevOps methodology. He expla...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
DevOps promotes continuous improvement through a culture of collaboration. But in real terms, how do you: Integrate activities across diverse teams and services? Make objective decisions with system-wide visibility? Use feedback loops to enable learning and improvement? With technology insights and real-world examples, in his general session at @DevOpsSummit, at 21st Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, explored how leading organizations use data-driven DevOps to close th...
Continuous Delivery makes it possible to exploit findings of cognitive psychology and neuroscience to increase the productivity and happiness of our teams. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Daniel Jones, CTO of EngineerBetter, will answer: How can we improve willpower and decrease technical debt? Is the present bias real? How can we turn it to our advantage? Can you increase a team’s effective IQ? How do DevOps & Product Teams increase empathy, and what impact does empath...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software. They hope to capture value from emerging technologies such as IoT, SDN, and AI. Ultimately, irrespective of the vertical, it is about deriving value from independent software applications participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridhar, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, discussed how given the magnitude of today's application ...
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
Digital transformation is about embracing digital technologies into a company's culture to better connect with its customers, automate processes, create better tools, enter new markets, etc. Such a transformation requires continuous orchestration across teams and an environment based on open collaboration and daily experiments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alex Casalboni, Technical (Cloud) Evangelist at Cloud Academy, explored and discussed the most urgent unsolved challenges to achieve f...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, 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.
You know you need the cloud, but you're hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You're looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you're concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies. What do you do?
"We started a Master of Science in business analytics - that's the hot topic. We serve the business community around San Francisco so we educate the working professionals and this is where they all want to be," explained Judy Lee, Associate Professor and Department Chair at Golden Gate University, 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.