University College London's Huge Cloud Storage Plan

UCL's new 100-PB, cloud-based storage facility will save money and help the school meet compliance goals.

Gary Flood

June 26, 2017

2 Min Read
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University College London, one of the U.K.'s leading universities, has started building what will eventually be a 100-petabyte cloud storage facility to support research.

The school, which aims to allow up to 3,000 researchers to easily share, re-use and store project data, has just announced the first step in that direction: a 600-terabyte system, built using technology from supplier DataDirect Networks.

UCL expects the system to save it hundreds of thousands of pounds per year in storage costs by replacing many storage accounts across the 100 or so departments, institutes and research centers it comprises.

[ Two other British universities are launching a Ph.D. program in cybersecurity. Read more at British Universities Given Funds For Cyber Security Program. ]

It will also save on real estate costs. UCL is based in central London's Bloomsbury district, where rental space can cost between £500 and £1,400 ($755 and $2,113) per square foot. The school, which claims 25 Nobel Prize winners among its alumni, says the new system will also help it better meet increasingly stringent compliance requirements for the management and preservation of research data as required by the U.K.'s seven Research Councils and other government funding bodies.

"We were very interested in building a relationship with a strong storage partner to fill our technology gap," said Max Wilkinson, head of research data services in UCL's Information Services Division. "[The new system] is empowering us to deliver performance and cost savings through a dramatically simplified approach."

Dr. Daniel Hanlon, storage architect for research data services in the same team, added, "It was important that [our new] solution gave us multiple ways to access the same storage, so we could be compatible with existing application codes. The tendency with other solutions was to give us bits of technology that had been developed in different spaces and that didn't really fit our problem."

UCL reacted favorably to the fact that its supplier works with open source solutions, as that increases the school's chance of sharing facilities with other academic institutions.

The supplier says the new storage system is built using a distributed object storage architecture using a parallel file storage approach, which offers high scalability as it dumps the traditional file system for an approach that makes it easier and more efficient to extend storage capacity.

According to IDC research director Ashish Nadkarni, this kind of storage technology is growing faster than any other segment in the file-and-object storage market. "UCL is a great example of this mainstream private cloud adoption of object storage for collaborative file sharing," he said.

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