How to handle growing storage needs for geospatial data

By and Dave Anderson-Ward | 4 minute read | March 7, 2019

When a search-and-rescue organization is looking for someone, every second counts. They need to know exactly where they are and what ground they’ve already covered. Organizations like UK Lowland Rescue rely on the accurate, available mapping data from Ordnance Survey to do their jobs quickly and efficiently.

Ordnance Survey is the national mapping agency for Great Britain and has been making maps for 227 years. While many still think of our organization as map makers, our core business is geospatial data. The information we capture is vital not only to the UK Government, but is also relied upon by companies across many markets including energy, infrastructure, land and property, transport, retail and finance.

Whenever someone in Britain uses any kind of navigational tool, whether that be for emergency rescues, logistics, or walking up a hill, they’re using our geospatial data in some shape or form.

Data, data everywhere

Ordnance Survey maintains a master map of geospatial data for Great Britain that contains more than half a billion individual geographic features. To increase its precision and accuracy we make, on average, about 20,000 changes to that master map every day. As you can imagine, there is an enormous and ever-growing amount of data behind all those details, and that data requires a lot of storage.

We’re seeing constantly evolving uses and requirements for our data. Self-driving cars will need highly accurate geospatial data so these vehicles can safely find their way through busy streets, negotiate junctions, and communicate with other vehicles. 5G technology will rely on accurate geospatial data, which is why every road, sign, lamp post, bus stop or tree will need to be recorded for it to work.

We don’t just need to store all that data, we need to ensure our network of partners, customers and developers get fast and reliable access to it.

Software-defined storage: the future of data storage

Our previous approach to storage found us buying more capacity than we needed. We filled it up gradually, meaning capacity could sit unused for a significant amount of time. But as a government owned, publicly funded company, we need to deliver the best value we can.

We started working with IBM several years ago to create better storage solutions. Today, we have nine clustered IBM Storwize V7000 hybrid storage systems, featuring IBM Spectrum Virtualize software and IBM Spectrum Control.

The flexibility of the hybrid Storwize solution matched our requirements. Not only does it give us enterprise-grade performance and resilience at mid-range cost, but it also provides high-performance drives for frequently accessed data, and lower cost alternatives for general storage. We’re able to serve up the data our customers need rapidly, reliably and cost-effectively.

Plus, the software-defined storage (SDS) approach to Spectrum Virtualize gives us better insight into and control of our storage resources. We recently completed two major data center migrations with negligible issues thanks to Spectrum Virtualize. It lets us accommodate our growing data in a smarter way. Instead of just adding more and more capacity we can use our existing systems more effectively. Using Spectrum Storage solutions, we’ve been able to keep raw storage capacity to 2.5 PB for the past few years while continuing to accommodate more data.

We’re preparing for the future—when we’ll be managing even more data—by using the Spectrum Control solution. It lets us monitor and analyze our entire storage landscape from a single console. The day that IBM Systems Lab Services helped us deploy Spectrum Control, we found over 40 TB of unused space that we could reclaim. This represented a huge cost saving and gave us room for growth. Spectrum Control also makes it easier to locate and move data between environments, which prepares us for a move to the Cloud if we ever decide to pursue that route in future.

Real-world data challenges and opportunities

Organizations such as UK Lowland Rescue solve real problems with our data. They don’t care how or where we store it. They care about having fast access to up-to-date, trusted and reliable data that covers the varied terrain they encounter, whether it be woodland, rivers, shallow water or steep banks. Access to our data can help their search teams achieve positive outcomes sooner, getting vulnerable people back to their loved ones.

So, our data helps solve today’s problems. It also meets tomorrow’s opportunities. For example, we are working on several smart city projects creating 3D models or urban environments to enable IoT projects, 5G trials and driverless car environments.

To support the nation’s future mapping needs, we’ll need to store, update and access vastly greater amounts of data seamlessly than we do today. We are confident that with our IBM Storage solutions, we can support the UK’s growing demand for geospatial data. And we’ll continue to provide the excellent service that organizations like Lowland Rescue have come to expect, efficiently and cost-effectively.

Watch how Ordnance Survey is guiding the UK into the future of geospatial mapping: