Challenge: To manage rapidly growing volumes of scientific data, NPL needed a scalable, cost-effective storage solution.
Solution: Hitachi solutions provide secure, accessible storage on a scalable cost model.
The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) leads ground-breaking research that helps to shape the development of new products, processes and practices that enrich our daily lives. For example, this public corporation, owned by the U.K government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is working on a project to revolutionize how cancer is treated by creating a world-first in tumour mapping.
Established in 1900, NPL has hundreds of employees around the U.K. who collaborate with hundreds of other scientific organizations across the globe.
Partnered with the University of Strathclyde and the University of Surrey, and serving as the U.K.’s National Metrology Institute, NPL also sets and maintains standard units of measure throughout the country.
NPL needs to store an increasingly large volume of scientific data typically from new advanced high resolution imaging systems which are now capable of creating huge data sets in much shorter time frames than were previously the case.
(Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
Research and Development
Hitachi Content Platform Data Migrator
Hitachi Data Ingestor
Migration facilitated by Hitachi Vantara Global Services Solutions
As Science Support Leader for the IT Services Unit at NPL, Nigel Budd, explains, “We need to be able to protect and manage vast amounts of information to support research initiatives. If there was an issue with data integrity or availability, it could have a massive impact on the quality and continuity of scientific research.”
NPL’s existing storage infrastructure relied on time-consuming tape backups, which took one member of the team a whole day every week to administer. “We needed to modernise our approach to data storage and protection,” says Budd.
A smarter approach for sharing, syncing and retrieving data would also be essential for supporting NPL’s role in the five-year project funded through Cancer Research UK’s Grand Challenges scheme. The initiative involves mapping tumour tissues at a molecular level to build the most detailed ever picture of the disease. “We need to collaborate with other organizations involved in the research with reliable access to around 500TB of data,” says Budd. “By the time the project is finished, there will be a ‘Google Earth’ of cancer, where the tumour is like the country, and you can zoom into molecular level with as much detail as if you were seeing a person sitting on a chair in that country, and then read the book they’re holding.”
NPL has partnered with Hitachi Vantara for 10 years to maximize the reliability and scalability of its storage infrastructure, and to help the organization migrate from tape-based backups that were time-consuming and complex to a modern object storage solution. “Hitachi Vantara doesn’t just provide great technologies; its team provides great insights too,” says Budd. “We needed a system that combined the flexibility of the cloud with the security, resilience and performance of traditional storage. We negotiated an on-demand pricing model with Hitachi based on predicted capacity, which will simplify forecasting and provisioning over the next five years.”
With object storage on Hitachi Content Platform (HCP), NPL can take a hybrid approach to storage: it provides the options to store historical scientific files hosted in the cloud for long-term retention and to store active research project data locally.
HCP makes the cloud-based data searchable and accessible by users both inside and outside of the organization. “Collaboration in the scientific community is huge. With Hitachi Vantara, we can offer a secure data repository for authorised people to access regardless of their location or their device,” says Budd.
NPL also uses HCP’s data migrator software to ingest data from its partner organizations and to upload granular metadata, which is essential in the scientific sector. “Our scientific data often has a value beyond the life of the project, instrument or even scientist who created it” says Budd. “People need to be able search [not just] their own data but also across data from other research projects as there might be a critical nugget of information that is needed further down the line.”
Data is also important for optimizing the ongoing management of the organisation’s storage resources. With Hitachi Vantara, NPL can tap into a range of utilization metrics and reports that simplify charging back to different clients and capacity planning for the ever-increasing volumes of data.
In addition to assisting with the implementation of the new solution, Hitachi Vantara provides ongoing support to free up NPL’s IT team for more valuable activities.
NPL is a key player in scientific research in the U.K. and beyond. By partnering with Hitachi Vantara, the organization has established a future-proofed storage infrastructure that can scale to meet growing data capacity and availability needs. “Hitachi Vantara shares our vision of enriching society through the advancement of science,” says Budd. “It helps ensure we have the technology we need to achieve our goals.”
The new solution will be critical to ensuring the success of the Cancer Research U.K. Grand Challenge project. “By simplifying collaboration and information-sharing with Hitachi Vantara solutions, NPL can ensure that research teams are free to focus their efforts on building ground-breaking tumour maps that will ultimately transform patient care and outcomes,” says Budd.
The on-demand utilization model will help to prevent overheads from escalating as lab instruments continue to generate more and more data. “With Hitachi Vantara, we can balance storage capacity and performance with cost,” says Budd.
NPL can also deliver a great user experience to scientists around the world. “Fast, secure and reliable access to data can make all the difference to the success of a research program” adds Budd. “With Hitachi Vantara, NPL can provide the global science community with the information it needs to keep making new discoveries that change the world.”
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