Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Kelly Burford, Karthick Viswanathan, Scott Davis

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.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory? In her Day 2 Keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Aruna Ravichandran, VP, DevOps Solutions Marketing, CA Technologies, was jo...
Some journey to cloud on a mission, others, a deadline. Change management is useful when migrating to public, private or hybrid cloud environments in either case. For most, stakeholder engagement peaks during the planning and post migration phases of a project. Legacy engagements are fairly direct: projects follow a linear progression of activities (the “waterfall” approach) – change managers and application coders work from the same functional and technical requirements. Enablement and develo...
The cloud era has reached the stage where it is no longer a question of whether a company should migrate, but when. Enterprises have embraced the outsourcing of where their various applications are stored and who manages them, saving significant investment along the way. Plus, the cloud has become a defining competitive edge. Companies that fail to successfully adapt risk failure. The media, of course, continues to extol the virtues of the cloud, including how easy it is to get there. Migrating...
From manual human effort the world is slowly paving its way to a new space where most process are getting replaced with tools and systems to improve efficiency and bring down operational costs. Automation is the next big thing and low code platforms are fueling it in a significant way. The Automation era is here. We are in the fast pace of replacing manual human efforts with machines and processes. In the world of Information Technology too, we are linking disparate systems, softwares and tool...
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.
For DevOps teams, the concepts behind service-oriented architecture (SOA) are nothing new. A style of software design initially made popular in the 1990s, SOA was an alternative to a monolithic application; essentially a collection of coarse-grained components that communicated with each other. Communication would involve either simple data passing or two or more services coordinating some activity. SOA served as a valid approach to solving many architectural problems faced by businesses, as app...
Gone are the days when application development was the daunting task of the highly skilled developers backed with strong IT skills, low code application development has democratized app development and empowered a new generation of citizen developers. There was a time when app development was in the domain of people with complex coding and technical skills. We called these people by various names like programmers, coders, techies, and they usually worked in a world oblivious of the everyday pri...
DevOps is good for organizations. According to the soon to be released State of DevOps Report high-performing IT organizations are 2X more likely to exceed profitability, market share, and productivity goals. But how do they do it? How do they use DevOps to drive value and differentiate their companies? We recently sat down with Nicole Forsgren, CEO and Chief Scientist at DORA (DevOps Research and Assessment) and lead investigator for the State of DevOps Report, to discuss the role of measure...
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable?Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, answered these questions and demonstrated techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances and co...
The nature of test environments is inherently temporary—you set up an environment, run through an automated test suite, and then tear down the environment. If you can reduce the cycle time for this process down to hours or minutes, then you may be able to cut your test environment budgets considerably. The impact of cloud adoption on test environments is a valuable advancement in both cost savings and agility. The on-demand model takes advantage of public cloud APIs requiring only payment for t...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
"As we've gone out into the public cloud we've seen that over time we may have lost a few things - we've lost control, we've given up cost to a certain extent, and then security, flexibility," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics,in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
It has never been a better time to be a developer! Thanks to cloud computing, deploying our applications is much easier than it used to be. How we deploy our apps continues to evolve thanks to cloud hosting, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and now Function-as-a-Service. FaaS is the concept of serverless computing via serverless architectures. Software developers can leverage this to deploy an individual "function", action, or piece of business logic. They are expected to start within milliseconds...
These days, APIs have become an integral part of the digital transformation journey for all enterprises. Every digital innovation story is connected to APIs . But have you ever pondered over to know what are the source of these APIs? Let me explain - APIs sources can be varied, internal or external, solving different purposes, but mostly categorized into the following two categories. Data lakes is a term used to represent disconnected but relevant data that are used by various business units wit...
With continuous delivery (CD) almost always in the spotlight, continuous integration (CI) is often left out in the cold. Indeed, it's been in use for so long and so widely, we often take the model for granted. So what is CI and how can you make the most of it? This blog is intended to answer those questions. Before we step into examining CI, we need to look back. Software developers often work in small teams and modularity, and need to integrate their changes with the rest of the project code b...
"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.
"Cloud4U builds software services that help people build DevOps platforms for cloud-based software and using our platform people can draw a picture of the system, network, software," explained Kihyeon Kim, CEO and Head of R&D at Cloud4U, 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.
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...
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 their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...