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Space organisation dumps NAS for object storage to gain space

Satellite Applications Catapult upgrade to 2PB of Cloudian object storage pays for itself in power and cooling savings as numerous legacy NAS boxes are replaced

UK space data organisation Satellite Applications Catapult has replaced legacy NAS infrastructure with Cloudian object storage in a move that will pay for the new hardware in savings on power and cooling costs alone.

Satellite Applications Catapult – based in Didcot, Oxfordshire – collects up to 5PB a year of satellite data for use by research organisations in a wide variety of areas. It expects that data volume to rise to 10PB a year.

Data is collected from satellite agencies and made available to clients via aabout 50 virtual datacentres that run on a Cisco UCS-based compute stack managed by VMware Cloud Director.

Since it was established five years ago, Satellite Applications Centre had deployed NAS storage from various suppliers but its datacentre had almost reached about 60U of space occupied.

“Our biggest headache was storage. Capacity was filling up,” said head of infrastructure Rob Fletcher.

“But the limitations were not so much scalability as the available footprint in our datacentre and power and cooling. We could have continued as we were, but it wasn’t an economically sound way of doing things.”

So, after evaluating scale-out NAS and object storage products, Fletcher’s team deployed 2PB in four Cloudian HyperStore HSA4010 nodes.

Cloudian is object storage and is based on the Apache Cassandra open source distributed database. Its multi-tenancy functionality allows access to many users while looking like their own domain.

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Object storage does not compete in terms of I/O access performance with with high-end block and file storage methods, but is well suited to large volumes of unstructured data, such as the large images – optical, radar and near-infra-red – used by the centre.

In place of the traditional tree-like file system of NAS, object storage uses a flat structure, with files given unique identifiers.

“Object storage suits the type of data we use,” said Fletcher. “Access time isn’t massively important, but the ability to handle large amounts of large files in unstructured data formats is.”

Fletcher said the move to Cloudian had saved the organisation on support costs, which came out at 40% less than it was paying for the numerous existing NAS arrays.

It has also saved 75% on rackspace, going from 40U down to 16U with double the capacity of the previous NAS hardware.

Savings on power and cooling were “almost to the point that it could pay for the hardware”, said Fletcher.

“What we got from Cloudian came with all the features of NAS, but at the cost of object – so around one-third less than from a tier one supplier – and is a platform we can scale from in future.”

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