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Northern Arizona U Deploys Software-Defined Storage for Research Data

Northern Arizona University has implemented a software-defined storage (SDS) appliance to support large research data sets, such as genome maps, Landsat images and complex chemistry data sets.

The university's IT services department supports researchers in the areas of astronomy, bioinformatics, computational chemistry, cropland mapping, human microbiome analysis and microbial genomics. However, the data sets had outgrown the storage and processing capacity of the individual research labs located throughout the university's various schools and departments.

Christopher Coffey, the high performance computing (HPC) research administrator for the university, and his team evaluated several storage options, including SAN-based RAID systems and ZFS systems. They wanted to find a system that would be compatible with the university's HPC system, which consists of Dell servers and Mellanox InfiniBand/Virtual Protocol Interconnect (VPI) switches with ConnectX-3 cards.

Coffey and his team selected the NexentaStor open source-driven software-defined storage (OpenSDS) platform from Nexenta. According to information from the company, NexentaStor delivers intermediate archival storage with compression for petabyte-scale active archives. Its snapshots capability enables the retrieval of original or lost files locally through network file system (NFS) and server message block (SMB) object services from around the campus. It also removes the need for prep steps prior to moving data into place for analysis.

"No other option we looked at surpassed Nexenta's features, flexibility and ZFS support," said Coffey in a news release. "Since implementation of the NexentaStor appliance, it's been hands off, requiring minimal maintenance, which is a big deal for us." He added that the Nexenta system has saved the university money because the compression has enabled them to reduce the footprint of the datasets.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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