UCL turns to private cloud to solve its data storage woes

University College London is building a storage infrastructure in the cloud that will scale up to 100PB

University College London (UCL) is building a storage infrastructure on the cloud that will scale up to 100PB (petabytes) to overcome its storage problems around research data.

The growing demand from its 3,000 researchers for more storage infrastructure has triggered the organisation’s move to the cloud.

As storage demands grow, the IT team wanted to build an infrastructure that was scalable, but at the same time simple and cost effective.

Until now, individual UCL researchers stored and preserved their own individual data, but it limited effective sharing and collaboration. The single shared cloud storage infrastructure will help overcome the barriers of sharing and using vital findings to improve research outcomes and overcome problems of global significance.

Faced with the need to accommodate all types of research data of varying velocity and growth rates, UCL also needed a high-density storage infrastructure and wanted to minimise the administration and compliance risks of individual researchers maintaining standalone removable hard drives and USB drives containing critical research data.

The UK Research Councils and other UK funding bodies require research institutions to meet stringent storage compliance requirements.

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UCL selected DataDirect Networks (DDN) object storage technology to store up to 600TB of research data in the first phase of the cloud project. The solution will be scaled up to 100PB as required.

“For 2013, IDC anticipates object storage growing faster than any other segment in the file-and-object storage market,” said Ashish Nadkarni, research director at IDC.

“A driver in the growth of private cloud adoption is the control over data security and resiliency users get compared to public clouds. As more companies look at object storage for collaborative file sharing, archive and backup, IDC is seeing an acceleration in cloud adoption.

DDN’s object storage capabilities will also help UCL researchers collaborate without worrying about data reliability, compliance obligations or long-term retention of critical research assets.

“UCL is a great example of this mainstream private cloud adoption of object storage for collaborative file sharing,” said Nadkarni.

UCL is a great example of this mainstream private cloud adoption of object storage for collaborative file sharing

Ashish Nadkarni, IDC

The institution aims to save hundreds of thousands of pounds with cloud storage, as it can cut hardware, power and staffing costs, as well as maintenance fees required to maintain a storage datacentre facility in-house.

UCL wanted a solution that offered it multiple ways to access the same storage so the organisation could be compatible with existing application codes, said Daniel Hanlon, storage architect for research data services at UCL’s information services division.

It opted for DDN’s platform because other solutions gave it “bits of technology that had been developed in different spaces and didn’t really fit our problem”.

It wanted a storage service provider that understood the differences between corporate and academic worlds, including the critical importance of delivering a solution researchers would embrace and use.

“We wanted to work with a storage solution provider that took advantage of open source solutions. This enables us to partner not just with DDN, but also with other academic institutions,” said Hanlon.

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