Medical research institution improves information availability, accuracy, and security

GWU-storageA new implementation is helping George Washington University (GWU) faculty focus on research efforts while expanding storage capacity.

The university recently deployed NexentaStor from Nexenta, a provider of Open Source-driven Software-Defined Storage (OpenSDS).

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is using NexentaStor to cost-effectively scale its storage capacity and ensure high availability and security of important data without requiring additional IT resources, says the School. University faculty have been able to focus on their efforts on research while minimizing the cost of procuring and managing storage, they say. For example, the university was able to expand its existing Nexenta appliance by 16 TB for less than $7,000.

(Next page: How the software-defined storage works)

Founded in 1824, George Washington University SMHS runs highly-ranked programs in the health and biomedical sciences. SMHS research and teaching activities depend on seamless access to state-of-the-art IT to carry out their cutting-edge investigations into areas like cancer, epilepsy and genomics and proteomics.

The IT group supports the school’s 1,500 staff and faculty by taking care of everything from desktop support and user training to managing server and storage resources, including web servers and computational clusters for genomics analysis.

Garrett Fields, technical support analyst, was tasked with looking at alternatives to SMHS’s existing storage infrastructure.

Until recently, the university data center housed SMHS’s group and home drives. The university didn’t charge researchers by the terabyte, but contained costs by putting a cap on the amount of storage they could use. As the school’s researchers generated more and more data, this arrangement became increasingly problematic. Researchers were turning to workarounds—such as setting up external hard drives in their labs, which compromised both data security and accessibility.

To address these challenges, SMHS’s IT team was looking for an Open Software-Defined Storage system that could offer greater accuracy as well as the freedom from lock-in to certain vendors or hardware.

After evaluating three different solutions, SMHS’s IT team determined that Nexenta was the best choice. Built-in high availability, quality of support, depth of expertise and focus on storage along with open source benefits were the key factors that led SMHS’s IT team to select NexentaStor.

“We needed a better solution,” said Fields. “Our researchers were looking for huge amounts of storage, and we thought we could meet their needs more cost-effectively than the university data center. But we were only going to take on responsibility for storage provision if we could ensure excellent performance and extraordinary reliability, as we achieved cost savings.”

The SMHS IT group was able to take on its new storage responsibilities without adding staff. In addition, eliminating time spent managing and troubleshooting researchers’ external drives allows existing staff to focus on other important IT initiatives. Scaling up is also much more cost-effective — when the group reached 70 percent capacity on its backup server, it was able to add 16 TB for less than $7,000.

SMHS researchers who used to rely on external hard drives now enjoy much greater data security, availability and ease of access. At the same time, there is no difference in performance for other users.

“Thanks to Nexenta, we’ve managed to free our researchers from restrictions on their storage, so they can move full steam ahead on their research, confident that they’re capturing and safeguarding all the data their projects generate,” SMHS’s Fields said.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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