Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Shelly Palmer

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

@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
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that EARP Integration will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EARP Integration is a passionate software house. Since its inception in 2009 the company successfully delivers smart solutions for cities and factories that start their digital transformation. EARP provides bespoke solutions like, for example, advanced enterprise portals, business intelligence systems an...
IBM helps FinTechs and financial services companies build and monetize cognitive-enabled financial services apps quickly and at scale. Hosted on IBM Bluemix, IBM’s platform builds in customer insights, regulatory compliance analytics and security to help reduce development time and testing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Tom Eck, Industry Platforms CTO at IBM Cloud, will discuss how these tools simplify the time-consuming tasks of selection, mapping and data integration, allowing developers ...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Brad Winett, Senior Technologist for DDN Storage, will present several current, end-user environments that are using object storage at scale for cloud deployments including private cloud and cloud providers. Details on the top considerations of features and functions for selecting object storage will be included. Brad will also touch on recent developments in tiering technologies that deliver single solution and an end-user view of data across files and objects...
For financial firms, the cloud is going to increasingly become a crucial part of dealing with customers over the next five years and beyond, particularly with the growing use and acceptance of virtual currencies. There are new data storage paradigms on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive financial data around the world without touching terrestrial networks. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Cliff Beek, President of Cloud Constellation Corporation, w...
Most DevOps journeys involve several phases of maturity. Research shows that the inflection point where organizations begin to see maximum value is when they implement tight integration deploying their code to their infrastructure. Success at this level is the last barrier to at-will deployment. Storage, for instance, is more capable than where we read and write data. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Josh Atwell, a Developer Advocate for NetApp, will discuss the role and value...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...
The 21st International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.
Interested in leveling up on your Cloud Foundry skills? Join IBM for Cloud Foundry Days on June 7 at Cloud Expo New York at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Foundry Days is a free half day educational conference and networking event. Come find out why Cloud Foundry is the industry's fastest-growing and most adopted cloud application platform.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Interoute is the owner operator of Europe's largest network and a global cloud services platform, which encompasses over 70,000 km of lit fiber, 15 data centers, 17 virtual data centers and 33 colocation centers, with connections to 195 additional partner data centers. Our full-service Unifie...
Cloud applications are seeing a deluge of requests to support the exploding advanced analytics market. “Open analytics” is the emerging strategy to deliver that data through an open data access layer, in the cloud, to be directly consumed by external analytics tools and popular programming languages. An increasing number of data engineers and data scientists use a variety of platforms and advanced analytics languages such as SAS, R, Python and Java, as well as frameworks such as Hadoop and Spark...
In order to meet the rapidly changing demands of today’s customers, companies are continually forced to redefine their business strategies in order to meet these needs, stay relevant and continue to see profitable growth. IoT deployment and development is integral in this transformation, and today businesses are increasingly seeing the value of investing their resources into IoT deployments. These technologies are able increase ROI through projects such as connecting supply chains or enabling sm...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs ofte...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DivvyCloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DivvyCloud software enables organizations to achieve their cloud computing goals by simplifying and automating security, compliance and cost optimization of public and private cloud infrastructure. Using DivvyCloud, customers can leverage programmatic Bots to identify and remediate common cloud problems in rea...
While some vendors scramble to create and sell you a fancy solution for monitoring your spanking new Amazon Lambdas, hear how you can do it on the cheap using just built-in Java APIs yourself. By exploiting a little-known fact that Lambdas aren’t exactly single threaded, you can effectively identify hot spots in your serverless code. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, David Martin, Principal Product Owner at CA Technologies, will give a live demonstration and code walkthrough, showing how to ov...