Cambridge university lab spends £80K to archive terabytes of data

A Cambridge University research laboratory has reduced the time it takes to back up over 23 terabytes of data from seven days to two, as part of an £80,000 overhaul of its storage area network (SAN).

A Cambridge University research laboratory has reduced the time it takes to back up over 23 terabytes of data from seven days to two, as part of an £80,000 overhaul of its storage area network (SAN).

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which works towards finding a cure for diabetes in young children, found that its previous set-up of a SAN and tape library lacked the capacity and management functions for reliably archiving the large amounts of data created by its research activities.

As part of upgrading its storage system, the foundation has spent £10,000 on software from Bakbone to automate much of the administrative tasks involved with carrying out and verifying the back-up process.

Over the past three years the amount of data which the facility processed had risen by 3 terabytes and staff had noticed that back-up times were increasing to the point where jobs were not completing successfully, thereby placing sensitive data at risk.

Furthermore, back-up jobs had to be carried out and audited manually, which tied up IT staff in maintenance rather than on more productive development work.

“If we did not address the deteriorating quality of our storage set-up as soon as we did, we would have been unable to continue research – it is as simple as that,” said systems manager Vin Everett. 

The foundation spent two months appraising the software to ensure it could handle the large volumes of data. According to Everett, this was an upgrade it could only carry out once because of a limited budget, and so stress-testing the application beforehand was essential to keeping a cap on revision costs.

“If this installation went wrong, and we had to fix something later on, it would have eaten into the main research budget and compromised the quality of work we carry out here”

Everett expects data volumes to continue to rise and that the next challenge will involve securing the data when transferring and backing up data between external partners. “We exchange a lot of our data with the Sanger institute and part of our future plans involve establishing secure shell (SSH) connections and using R-sync technology to verify that large terabyte transfers are successful,” he said.

Comment on this article: computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk

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