Helmholtz Centre Finds Cure for Data Growth
Leading infection research centre
Based in Braunschweig, Germany, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest scientific organization. The center employs 900 people in research, administration, and infrastructure as well as hosting around 220 visiting scientists from 40 different countries. Working through a network of strategic partnerships with universities, research institutions, and hospitals, the center receives most of its funding from the federal government.
HZI’s scientists study infectious diseases to get a better understanding of how they develop and spread, providing data that can be used to produce drugs and vaccines. From an IT perspective, this research typically generates high volumes of data, which needs to be processed and stored.
For HZI, the data growth was starting to become a problem. Although only six years old, the center’s main storage system was fast becoming obsolete and could not be upgraded. Dr. Joachim Metge, Head of HZI IT, 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 disk size and poor latency was starting to have a negative impact on the efficiency and productivity of the Center, 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. The center has to demonstrate that it spends money effectively. For IT, increasing management and administration costs were adding to the problem. The center asked for bids (issued a public tender) to find a solution.
HZI determined that a Huawei-based solution was best for meeting the center’s needs. This solution was offered by IT systems integrator Microstaxx.
Operating throughout Germany since 1990, Microstaxx is a leading provider of IT solutions with a focus mainly on clients from the public sector, particularly in the fields of science, research, and education. The company also offers solutions for medium-sized businesses from all economic sectors with a range of skills that includes everything necessary to design, implement, and maintain a sophisticated IT solution. Moreover, the company provides a range of services — from basic IT management to full IT outsourcing.
Joachim Metge commented, “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.”
According to Henning Dorsch, the Microstaxx manager for the HZI account, “During the tender process, we carefully analyzed all of Helmholtz’s requirements. We designed our proposal around 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.”
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 Disk Drive (HDD) and Solid-State Disk (SSD) storage media that can be configured to meet individual customer requirements. For HZI, the ideal configuration had an HDD-to-SSD ratio of 80:20.
Installation of the new system took three weeks. After setting up the OceanStor 2600 V3, Microstaxx connected this new storage to the existing storage systems and virtualized all of the storage through Huawei’s built-in SmartVirtualization technology.
This virtualization enabled data to be migrated in the background while keeping services running. During this operation, the Huawei support team was also working 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,” says Joachim Metge. “Microstaxx has proved to be a very capable partner, and with Huawei’s products in its portfolio, it has certainly delivered a winning solution.”
Thomas Mayerhofer, Head of Solution Architects at Microstaxx, observes, “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.”
After six months of operation, HZI’s new storage system is running 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. The team is also able to respond to requests for increased capacity much more quickly and effectively.
Joachim Metge says, “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.”
Feedback from users has also been very positive. With measured latency rates up to 15 percent of what they used to be, applications run much faster. The general IT experience of the many teams in the center has improved significantly, putting them in a strong position to meet future challenges.
Joachim Metge concludes, “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.”