Half PB storage boosts Imperial College’s e-learning

Imperial College London has deployed a new highly-scalable storage system to support staff, students and researchers across multiple departments.

The centrally-funded half PetaByte system from OCF enables the storage of vast amounts of research data produced at the College, whilst underpinning a Panopto video capture system that records lectures from up to 100 separate theatres on a daily basis.

Sitting across two separate data centres, the Linux-based, IBM GPFS storage system replaces a legacy Microsoft solution that had grown on an ad-hoc basis and had become increasingly difficult to grow and administer.

The College will be able to utilise the system to boost its focus on e-learning, using the Panopto video capture to store, capture and encode video recordings of lectures, making them available for editing and viewing by potentially 20,000 students.

The new system comprises of 8x IBM x3650 M4 GPFS clustered storage and NAS servers, along with 4x IBM Storwize v3700 storage arrays which provide increased uptime, greater resilience, and increased response time. The system also incorporates a number of disaster recovery features to protect against data loss.

"We wanted a system that could grow and scale more easily and protect large data sets more effectively and efficiently," said Steven Lawlor, ICT Datacentre Services Manager at Imperial College London.

"Our old system no longer scaled and was becoming a bit of a beast. The new system will be easier to expand and more cost effective, in part because we can now move data to tape for long-term storage, a key requirement for certain types of research data. Uptime is one of the most important factors, we wanted a system that could also be maintained and expanded whilst still running."

Julian Fielden, Managing Director of OCF comments: "We’re seeing a massive explosion of data growth. Academia is feeling the pressure of keeping up with storage demands, especially around research data. Imperial College London’s real challenge was around storing the lecture capture side."

"Research data can be broken up and separated, whereas its video capture system was one large system across the College. By developing a scalable storage solution based on GPFS they are now able to grow and expand storage in a simple and cost-effective manner."

Imperial College London has already migrated all of its video content to GPFS. It is currently migrating research datasets from the Microsoft environment to the new Linux-based storage system.

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