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Atempo, HDS BlueArc & Overland shine a light on storage at ALBA Synchrotron

The ALBA Synchrotron Light Facility is the first of its kind in Southern Europe. Founded in 2003 and based in Cerdanyola del Vallès near Barcelona, the 268metre circumference facility was finally completed in early 2011. It currently employs 140 engineers, scientists, support staff and technicians.


Date: 5 Mar 2012

Co-financed by the Spanish and Catalan governments, ALBA’s accelerators produce synchrotron light (a form of electromagnetic radiation emitted when charged particles travel in curved paths) by accelerating certain electrons to light speeds; the resulting radiation is then stored for use in a variety of experiments.

Synchrotron radiation (SR) is a powerful tool for basic and applied studies in disciplines including biology, chemistry, medicine, physics, and also many sub-fields such as a wide range of environmental, pharmaceutical, and earth sciences. When ALBA formally opens its seven ‘beamlines’ to the broader scientific community in April 2012, it will allow research groups from all over the world to carry out cutting-edge experimentation across a diversity of applications from material stress testing in micro-manufacturing to microscopy and bone growth analysis.

Massive IT requirement needs solid solutions
ALBA currently has more than 340 racks, manages 6,000 pieces of IT equipment, and runs in excess of 17,000 Cat6 and Cat7 cables stretching almost 170km around its site. This network infrastructure services a range of functions across ALBA including the accelerator, the beamlines, all the office buildings, a datacentre, a 40-access point WLAN, and several ‘remote’ sites in and around the main campus.

Joachim Metge, Head of System Section, at the ALBA facility, says: “With the high-level experimentation certain to generate enormous volumes of data (as much as 300MB every second and with these numbers likely to ramp massively over time) it was clear from the outset that the facility’s storage requirement would be difficult to manage.”

Lightening the primary storage load
Firstly, with the scientists working at ALBA requiring fast, instant access to what can often be time sensitive experimental data, a two BlueArc Titan 3200 HNAS head cluster from Hitachi Data Systems was chosen to deliver the 250TB of requisite high-performance disk-based primary storage.

The Titan enables tens of thousands of user sessions and thousands of compute nodes to be served concurrently, while maintaining data access at dramatically high rates. Ideal for companies like ALBA where users are working on the largest data sets, and who need serious performance when it comes to information storage and retrieval.

However, with its primary storage demands mounting fast, performance degrading as a consequence, and the cost of buying more disk storage prohibitive, it became apparent that space would have to be freed on the primary HNAS storage array whilst ensuring experimental data was kept safe for future reference.

Protecting and storing the data
After researching a number of the leading vendors, ALBA selected an eight-drive LTO5-based NEO 8000e tape library from Overland Storage in partnership with digital archiving and back-up solutions from Atempo.

Supplied by Spanish reseller Flytech, the Overland NEO 8000e provides a long-term data storage and archiving solution for organisations with massive amounts of data. Embedded robustness, flexibility and intelligence are the cornerstone of the NEO 8000e, making it the ideal solution for the demanding data centre at ALBA.

The Overland solution has cut storage costs and opened up space on the BlueArc array by allowing ALBA to archive 250TB of data to the 1.5PB library in a two-month period.

This has ensured that key data is housed securely for the long-term without the need for forklift upgrades. It has also meant that ALBA was able to avoid purchasing two further disk storage devices and it has saved the facility further outlay in both drive costs and energy consumption. Moreover, with Overland’s library able to scale to 3PB, additional storage investments should be unnecessary for some time.

It all means that the experiments performed at ALBA can continue without fear of data loss and spiraling storage costs. Metge, explains: “Being able to transfer so much data to tape but still maintain availability has saved us an enormous upgrade on disk storage. The ability to keep data archived and readily available within the same unit is a huge weight off our minds. Ultimately this makes the work of our visiting scientists easier and less risky, and when your work is as important as the studies carried out here, eliminating these risks is absolutely crucial.”

Automatic migration tool saves time and money
Atempo Digital Archive’s (ADA) file-archiving and storage management capabilities have proved equally critical; freeing space by allowing ALBA to migrate data automatically whilst ensuring cost effective, fast access as research continues.

“Using Atempo, we can centrally manage and securely archive 250TB of precious scientific experiment data for long-term retention, so it can always be accessed,” says Metge, “(while it also) allows us to easily and quickly search for and retrieve information.

“In addition, being able to transfer a large amount of data to low-cost tape means ALBA can keep costs down while at the same time continuing to provide fast easy access to the scientists’ experiment data when they need it most.”

ALBA now also relies on Atempo Time Navigator (ATN) to safely and securely back up its 30 or so servers, which themselves amount to around 30TB of data such as directories, network shares, and email. ATN allows ALBA to easily restore files from any point in time, from any storage device, while the ability to back-up incrementally on a daily basis (thereby only backing up new or revised files) means bandwidth usage is minimised and backup windows are kept short.

The future is bright
“ALBA is faced with exponential growth of unstructured data that needs to be kept safely for the long-term while remaining accessible for future use,” concluded Metge. “Using BlueArc, Atempo and Overland to easily and efficiently manage our data at all points of its lifecycle means we are optimising our existing storage resources and keeping costs down.”


Tags: ICT, BC/DR, Disk/RAID/Tape/SSDs, Tiered Storage

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