Leading infectious research centre

Based in Braunschweig, Northern Germany, the Helmholtz Centre for Infectious Research (HZI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest scientific organisation. The centre employs 900 people in research, administration and infrastructure as well as hosting around 220 visiting scientists from 40 different countries. It works through a network of closely aligned strategic partnerships with universities, research institutions and hospitals and receives the majority of its funding from the federal government.

HZI’s scientists study infectious diseases to develop a better understanding of how they develop and spread, providing data that can be used to produce drugs and vaccines to combat them. From an IT perspective, this work typically results in the creation of high volumes of data, which needs to be processed and stored on a regular basis.

Massive growth of data volumes

For HZI this growth was starting to become a problem. Although only six years old, its existing main storage system was fast becoming obsolescent and could not be upgraded. Dr. Joachim Metge, Head of IT, HZI explains:“Although our old storage system had served us well, it was not designed to handle the vast amount of data our teams now produce. A combination of limited disc size and poor latency was starting to have negative impact on the efficiency and productivity of the Centre, so we clearly needed to start looking for a replacement.”

It wasn’t just the technology that was proving to be an issue for HZI. As a publicly-funded body it’s budget comes under close scrutiny and it has to demonstrate that it is spending money effectively. IT is no exception, so with increasing management and administration costs adding to the problem, the Centre took the decision to issue a public tender to find a solution.

Storage systems from Huawei make the race

After a comprehensive evaluation of the responses received, it was clear that the Huawei based solution offered by IT Systems Integrator, microstaxx more than fitted the bill.

Operating throughout Germany since 1990, microstaxx is a leading provider of individual IT solutions. Based in Munich, its main focus is on clients from the public sector, particularly in the fields of science, research and education as well as medium-sized businesses from all economic sectors. The company’s range of skills includes everything necessary to design, implement and maintain a sophisticated IT solution. It provides a range of services from basic IT management to full IT out-sourcing.

“When comparing the different solutions on offer, we were very surprised by the amount of extra value the Huawei system offered in terms of functionality and price. In particular, the inclusion of built-in storage virtualization stood out as something not offered by the others. This was important, as it meant we could migrate all our existing data in the background, with a minimum of downtime,”continues Joachim Metge.

“During the tender-process, we carefully analysed all of Helmholtz’s requirements. We designed our proposal round two powerful Huawei OceanStor systems with innovative software and management capabilities. Backed by predictable performance data and a comprehensive implementation and migration plan, we were able to provide a convincing solution that met or exceeded everything that was being asked for,” adds Henning Dorsch, Account Manager for Helmholtz, microstaxx.

Huawei’s OceanStor 2600 V3 storage system is designed specifically for enterprise-class applications. It uses a storage operating system built on a cloud-oriented architecture, a powerful new hardware platform, and a suite of intelligent management software, enabling it to deliver industry-leading functionality, performance and ease-of-use.

The system’s innovative design allows for a bespoke mix of traditional hard disc (HDD) and Solid State (SSD) storage media that can be configured to individual customer requirements.For HZI, this resulted in a configuration with a ratio of 80:20 between HDD and SSD.

Installation of the new system took place over a three-week period. “After setting up the new OceanStor 2600 v3, the existing storage systems were connected and virtualized through Huawei’s built-in SmartVirtualization technology.

This enables data to be migrated in the background while keeping services running. During that time, the Huawei support team was always there in the background to offer advice and support if needed.

“I was very impressed with how smoothly things went and how well documented everything was. microstaxx has proved to be a very capable partner and with Huawei’s products in its portfolio, it has certainly delivered a winning solution,” adds Joachim Metge.

“Huawei is a strategic partner in our IT solution portfolio.From training, solution-design and pre-testing through to installation, we have always found its support to be exceptional,” comments Thomas Mayerhofer, Head of Solution Architects at microstaxx.

High performance and low administration effort

HZI’s new storage system has been operational for over six months and continues to run smoothly with excellent performance and reliability. For the IT team, the pressure has been taken off its budget as management costs have been considerably reduced. It is also able to respond to requests for increased capacity much more quickly and effectively.

“Although there’s a higher initial outlay for a shelf, the costs of adding more hard discs to it are much lower as there are no additional license fees. This is important to us, as different scientific groups are responsible for funding any additional storage space they need. In the past they have been known to set up their own separate systems because they thought what was being offered was too expensive,” comments Joachim Metge.

Feedback from users has also been very positive. With measured latency rates of anywhere up to 15 per cent of what they used to be, applications run much faster and the general IT experience of the many teams in the centre has been greatly improved, putting them in a very strong position to meet the growing challenges of the future.

“We hadn’t heard of Huawei before as a provider of Enterprise solutions but after microstaxx introduced us to them, it got maximum points in many areas of our evaluation criteria. Our technicians have been very impressed by what they have seen and experienced and we will certainly consider using its solutions in the future,” concludes Joachim Metge.

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