Business challenge

As its unstructured data (including administrative documents, research materials and medical images) exploded, VUmc wanted the security, cost-efficiency and scalability of a centralized storage platform.

Transformation

Working with E-Storage, VUmc used IBM Spectrum Scale™ to deliver a virtualized, vendor-agnostic storage platform, with IBM Spectrum Archive™ to support seamless data archive and retrieval regardless of storage media.

Results

99% faster

data migrations enable IT to focus on value-added development

7x increase

in backup frequency due to reduced complexity and increased efficiency

Streamlines

governance by migrating the organization to a centralized pool of storage

Business challenge story

Complex research sends storage requirements soaring

For a leading academic medical center such as VU University Medical Center (VUmc), big data is a key enabler of cutting-edge work in the fields of oncology, neuroscience and cardiovascular disease.

Patrick Dekkers, ICT Technical Storage Specialist at VU University Medical Center, begins: “In recent years, demand for storage within VUmc has exploded, and is currently doubling year on year. This dramatic increase has been driven by a number of different user communities across our organization.

“For example, our genomics research divisions generate large amounts of DNA sequencing data. Similarly, our clinical staff utilize imaging modalities such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI] machines to diagnose patients—creating large files which we are legally required to retain for many years after their treatment is complete.”

Jaap Jan Ouwehand, ICT Specialist – Storage and Linux, continues: “In the past, each part of the organization utilized its own tactical storage solutions (such as network attached storage [NAS] drives) to serve users. As well as creating challenges from a data governance and security perspective, this distributed approach was becoming increasingly costly as storage requirements continued to grow.”

To solve the challenge, VUmc decided to build a centralized storage platform to serve its entire user community. Dekkers adds: “Our goal was to create a future-ready platform with the scalability to keep up with the ongoing growth in unstructured data. To achieve our aim, we decided to engage the support of an expert partner.”

Thanks to our work with IBM and E-Storage, we’ve created a secure, scalable storage platform to support stakeholders across the organization.

—Patrick Dekkers, ICT Technical Storage Specialist, VU University Medical Center

Transformation story

Building a secure, scalable platform for big data

After evaluating proposals from a number of vendors, VUmc chose E-Storage as its partner for the storage transformation project. In 2014, E-Storage recommended a fully virtualized storage solution based on IBM Spectrum Scale, which was subsequently implemented. Two years later, VUmc wanted to add the ability to perform automated online archive tiering to tape. IBM Spectrum Archive was determined to be the optimal choice for this because it allowed them to make the enhancement with no disruption to user data. For cost-effective long-term data storage, the solution also includes an IBM TS4500 Tape Library.

“Of all the solutions we considered, we felt that the E-Storage proposal was the best fit for our operational requirements,” says Ouwehand. “Using IBM Spectrum Scale to virtualize our platform means we’re not committed to any single vendor’s storage hardware, which empowers us to select the most cost-effective options on the market. We also really appreciate how quick and easy it is to migrate data from one disk to another with IBM Spectrum Scale—after a couple of minutes of set-up, we can walk away and let the process run.”

Working together with a team from E-Storage and IBM, VUmc completed a successful pilot project for its new enterprise storage platform. Next, the organizations worked together to deploy and configure the platform into four storage tiers, and migrate data from NAS drives across the organization.

“Today, all of our storage metadata resides on tier 0, which is based on solid-state drives [SSDs],” continues Dekkers. “Our tier 1 layer consists of low-latency SAS drives, with higher-latency disks for less frequently used data in the layer below. Our lowest storage tier is our tape library, which we manage with IBM Spectrum Archive.”

Ouwehand adds: “When one of our departments needs more storage, the process is easier than ever. We can now provide the business with a menu of gold, silver and bronze services, depending on each department’s requirements around latency, capacity and long-term retention. Once they have chosen the option that works best, we create the appropriate automated storage tiering policy in IBM Spectrum Scale—helping us ensure that we always deliver on our service-level agreements.

“Throughout the implementation project and beyond, the support we’ve received from E-Storage has been extremely responsive. We have a single point of contact at E-Storage who’s always on hand to answer our questions and provide technical guidance. On one occasion, E-Storage jumped on a technical issue that our service desks alerted us to in the middle of the night—and we’re very pleased with the effort they put into keeping our storage environment running smoothly.”

Results story

Supporting cutting-edge research cost-effectively

With IBM Spectrum Storage solutions at the heart of its centralized storage environment, VUmc supports its clinicians, researchers and administrators with the resources they need to work effectively.

“Today, we can offer our users the secure, high-performance storage resources to support their cutting-edge research—whether they need 100 MB or 100 TB,” says Dekkers. “Better still, the automated management capabilities we’re getting from the IBM platform enable us to deliver dependably high availability with minimal manual effort. As a result, we can manage the storage platform for the entire organization with a team of just three people, and focus on developing value-added services.”

With data archival and retrieval powered by IBM Spectrum Archive, VUmc is confident that critical data will be protected.

“In the past, the complexity and time required to create a snapshot of our environment meant that we could achieve this only two times per week—lengthening our recovery point objective,” says Ouwehand. “Today, we back up all of our data at least twice a day, and retain 20 days of snapshots for disaster recovery purposes.

“We currently have 1.2 PB of data on tape, and 2.5 PB on disk. Despite retaining more data, our cost per TB is excellent, and we are now meeting our storage needs in far more cost-effective way.”

Dekkers adds: “Some of our data needs to be retained for 100 years, and needs to be readily accessible for that entire period. With IBM Spectrum Scale, we have designed policies that move data to the correct storage tier without any need for manual intervention on our part.

“Because our platform is virtualized, migrating to new platforms is easier than ever. Whereas before it took us as long as four months to bring a new storage environment online, we can now complete the migration process in as little as six hours with a single command—99 percent faster than before.”

Looking to the future, VUmc plans to enhance its storage environment with cloud storage.

Dekkers comments: “We have research partnerships with other hospitals in Europe, and we’re very interested in using the cloud as a shared storage platform for researchers to exchange their data with peers at other institutions. We’re currently examining a number of options, but we think that IBM Spectrum Scale could play an important role in moving this object storage data into the cloud.”

He concludes: “Thanks to our work with IBM and E-Storage, we’ve created a secure, scalable storage platform to support stakeholders across the organization. The response from the business has been positive, and we’re confident that access to high-performance storage will help fuel the cutting-edge work our researchers are doing.”

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About VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (VUmc)

Based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, VU University Medical Center (VUmc) delivers high-quality patient care, academic education and groundbreaking cancer, neuroscience, cardiovascular research. Founded in 1966, VUmc admits more than 50,000 in-patients, 30,000 patients and 300,000 out-patients every year.

Take the next step

To learn more about IBM Spectrum Storage solutions, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/storage/spectrum

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Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Utrecht, the Netherlands, E-Storage is a specialist provider of storage and back-up solutions. With a comprehensive range of offerings including on-premises storage and backup solutions as well as public and private cloud solutions, E-Storage helps its clients manage exploding volumes of data securely, effectively and cost-efficiently. To learn more about products and services from E-Storage, please visit: e-storage.nl