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British Antarctic Survey Navigates Surge of Scientific Research and Complex Climate Models with DDN Hybrid Flash Storage Appliance

September 2015 by Emmanuelle Lamandé

DataDirect Networks (DDN) announced that British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has deployed DDN’s SFA7700X hybrid flash storage appliance to meet an exponential surge in research data and complex climate models that are helping to shed light on major environmental issues such as the impact of global warming on the Antarctic ice shelf.

As one of the world’s leading environmental research centers, BAS embraces a research strategy called Polar Science for Planet Earth, which includes months-long expeditions on ice-strengthened ships to measure as much of the Antarctic environment as possible.

BAS collects and preserves vast amounts of critical data about what exists above and below the seafloor. Additionally, as the European hub of SuperDARN - a major global project focused on measuring and modeling the impact of various atmospheric conditions on the Antarctic ice-shelf - BAS is responsible for sharing massive amounts of data with the global research community.

Faced with collecting 10 times more data than a decade ago and twice as much data as last year, BAS required high-performance storage that could grow-in-place at its space-constrained data center in Cambridge, England. With DDN’s SFA7700X, BAS extracts maximum performance and value from both spinning disk and flash media.

“Over the last 10 to 15 years our data increase has been around 75 percent year on year. The ability to blend some of the fastest online storage with near-line storage in one solution meets our demands for performance-optimized solutions,” said Jeremy Robst, IT support engineer and head of Unix systems for British Antarctic Survey. “DDN helps us to manage our research needs with reliable, scalable Lustre and VMware support, helping us and the research community gain more insight from our big data sets.”

In addition to maximizing Big Data insights, BAS sought increased reliability to ensure 24/7 access to research data and scientific modeling demands. A small yet dedicated IT team also needed to address a growing VMware environment while supporting the move to a Lustre parallel file system to accommodate evolving needs and to align seamlessly with the Cambridge-based research community.

By moving to DDN’s SFA7700X, BAS now enables scientists and researchers to take advantage of a mix of flash and rotating media to cost-effectively speed performance of different applications and models, including the weather forecasting model used by the UK’s Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and the MIT General Circulation Model (MITgcm), which assists with studying the atmosphere, climate and ocean.

Thanks to DDN’s high-density configuration, BAS has been able to cut data center space dedicated to storage by almost half while increasing capacity by over 10x. “DDN’s density is our No. 1 benefit as we now can grow capacity without increasing our storage footprint in the data center,” added Robst. “The ability to increase storage without needing more power or space will make a big difference in the future.” BAS can continue to upgrade its existing storage, adding more SFA7700X systems to achieve a three-to-four times increase of up to 1.5 PBs of storage capacity within the same footprint.

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