May 14, OCF, Cambridge University Schools Benefit from Double Data Protection | Mantis Public Relations

May 14, OCF, Cambridge University Schools Benefit from Double Data Protection

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Press coverage highlights from story:

  • ITProPortal, University of Cambridge backs-up the back-up with offsite storage facility
  • InsideHPC, Cambridge Goes With Double Data Protection from OCF
  • StorageNewsletter, Two Cambridge University Schools Benefit From Double Data Protection

Two schools and multiple departments from University of Cambridge can for the first time store and protect essential research databases and administrative data to a secure, offsite, replicated data archive. The system, which copies data from existing department-level backup systems to provide secondary storage and protection, gives researchers greater confidence in the security and safety of data held. It also enables compliance with data protection guidelines from UK Research Councils funding agencies.

Designed and integrated by data processing, management, storage and analytics provider OCF, the high performance storage system uses DataDirect Networks [DDN] storage. It also uses IBM’s GPFS file system for data management.

The School of Humanities and Social Sciences and School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Cambridge have combined financial resources to procure the new 400TB system. The system is available to all 20 departments within both schools.

Managed by the University Information Services, the new storage system extracts data from faculty level backup systems on flexible terms set by the technical staff for each school – this could be twice per day, nightly or on a rotational basis. In some departments the new storage system is second or even third level protection. Right now, 11 departments are actively using the storage facility.

For added protection, data is stored and replicated at two sites – each within a mile of each other. The whole system enables greater protection and recovery of essential data in the event of a disaster. Importantly, the system incorporates smaller departments that would otherwise have been excluded from secondary backups due to cost. The system also enables the University to comply with data storage guidance from research councils.

  • Bob Dowling, Head of Unix Systems Division at University of Cambridge Computing Service: “The introduction of a faster network gave us the opportunity to introduce a central storage facility. The schools funded the facility, but we centrally manage it. Right now, we’ve filled around 10 percent of the storage capacity and its sized to cope with a five-year lifespan. From an IT management perspective, the system has given us confidence in the security of our data, but also compliance with the grant awarding process of UK Research Councils.”
  • Andrew Gerrard, Computer Officer, Faculty of Law, School of the Humanities and Social Sciences: “The system was procured by pooling funds across schools and departments, which enables smaller departments to use the system too. It is operating as a ‘backup for our backups’ – second or third level protection. From a disaster recovery point of view, I can select key data from a department level backup and put into our new primary level storage. Once the tender was complete and papers signed, the integration just happened when it was supposed to. The project management from OCF happened exactly when it should.” 
  • Jennifer Pollard, Computer Officer, Faculty of English, School of Arts and Humanities: “We previously used two 1TB USB drives to back up administrative data in the English Faculty. We would swap one of those between my office and the fire safe in the basement of another building once every week or so. We can now save file changes nightly and incrementally to the central storage providing three levels of protection. I personally feel much more confident in the security of our data and the potential to recover from disaster. If we were to lose both file servers for any reason, we know our data is now centrally protected and only 12 hours old.”

Technology integration

The 400TB of storage is contained on a pair of DDNTM SFA modular mid-tier storage appliances with expansion enclosures. Leveraging 15 years of experience supporting high-performance workloads and business-critical environments, DDN storage is designed to combine sustainable, low-latency performance with enterprise-class availability and protection to meet the extreme demands of highly scalable and latency sensitive applications and workloads.

The DDN arrays are directly attached by Fibre Channel to a pair of IBM x3650 M4 GPFS Metadata servers, which present the file system out over the Ethernet networks. The solution is also replicated to an identical set of storage on the secondary site. In the rare event of a primary site failure, the administrator can failover traffic to the replica on the secondary site for immediate availability whilst issues at the primary site are addressed.

  • 4x DDN modular mid-tier storage appliances  [x2 at each site] with GPFS file system
  • 4x IBM x3650 M4 GPFS (NSD) servers
  • Replicated over two sites
  • 400TBs of data storage


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