Customer stories

The INS Journey of Preserving History with STORViX Data Management

With a history spanning over a century, the Institute of Natural Sciences (INS) is a cornerstone of research in Natural Sciences and Natural History in Belgium, housing the third-largest natural history collection in Europe. This extensive repository, combined with cutting-edge research in diverse fields such as biology, geology, and oceanography, has led to an enormous accumulation of data. As the infrastructure of INS grew, so did the need for a more efficient system to ensure the security and accessibility of their invaluable research data.

4 min read

The challenge

The Institute of Natural Sciences (INS) faced a growing challenge in managing its critical North Sea research data. Their existing storage solution, chosen primarily for its initial cost with limited focus on advanced data management capabilities, became inadequate as their infrastructure rapidly expanded. Plans to consolidate operations from multiple departments under a central IT function further strained the system’s capacity.

Key issues with existing solution (as identified by INS):

  • Insufficient capacity: The rapid growth of research data surpassed the storage capacity, requiring frequent manual clean-up by scientists to free up space.
  • System instability: The system became increasingly unstable after only five years of operation, raising concerns about data reliability.
  • Limited data security: The existing solution lacked built-in data security features, such as snapshotting, leaving vital research data vulnerable. These limitations resulted in:
    • Data loss incidents: Several disk failures occurred within a short period, leading to at least one confirmed data loss event.
    • Inefficient management: The lack of automated data protection and retention required significant manual intervention, hindering research workflow.

INS’s requirements for a new solution:

To address these critical issues and ensure optimal performance under budget constraints, INS sought a modern storage solution that could meet the following needs:

  • Cross-platform compatibility: Seamless integration with diverse research environments.
  • Granular access control: Secure access management at both network and user levels to safeguard sensitive data.
  • Multi-layered data protection: Protection against hardware failures and accidental data loss through robust backup mechanisms.
  • Automated retention management: Pre-programmed retention policies for efficient data recovery and lifecycle management.

By implementing a solution that addressed these challenges, INS aimed to streamline data management, enhance data security, and empower their researchers to focus on their vital scientific endeavors.

faster backups data storage ins

The decision process

Recognizing the limitations of their existing storage solution, the Institute of Natural Sciences (INS) embarked on a determined search for a more efficient data management system. They conducted a thorough market evaluation and launched a public tender process to ensure a fair and competitive selection.

A regional vendor emerged as the frontrunner, proposing a solution built on the then-new STORViX platform. This proposal resonated with INS for several reasons. First, STORViX’s solution met all the stringent technical requirements outlined in the tender, and in some aspects, even surpassed those of their larger competitors. Second, STORViX’s approach offered a significant cost advantage. Their modular licensing model, where they certified the hardware configurations of their regional vendor to run their platform, provided more flexibility compared to traditional vendor-locked solutions. This flexibility allowed them to deliver a more competitive price point.

The decision-making process involved the ICT manager, who played a leading role in managing the tendering process and evaluating proposals. The general director then presented the recommended solution (STORViX) to the governing board for final approval. The governing board, after receiving positive advice from the Federal Financial Inspection office, held the ultimate authority to award the tender. Ultimately, the combination of STORViX’s technical merit and competitive pricing convinced the board to select them as the solution provider.

What truly set STORViX apart was its ability to deliver a feature set comparable to those offered by larger competitors, but with a more flexible model. This flexibility allowed for better customization and potentially lower costs. STORViX’s modular licensing structure made their solution a more attractive option within INS’s budget constraints.

By selecting STORViX, INS gained access to a modern storage solution that addressed their critical needs while remaining cost-effective. This decision paved the way for improved data management, enhanced security, and ultimately, empowered researchers to focus on their scientific pursuits.

The solution

STORViX’s solution for INS was a tailored two-system deployment. One AiRE IntelligentFiler model 3128, optimized for performance, addressed the needs of the hypervisor cluster. This system provided state-of-the-art data protection for the Proxmox infrastructure, enabling swift VM migrations between nodes and significantly improving stability. The other AiRE system, optimized for capacity, went to the High Performance Computing cluster. This resulted in a substantial increase in I/O operation speeds and overall storage capacity, exceeding their initial needs and freeing up valuable research time.

Beyond increased storage, the AiRE IntelligentFiler offered a suite of advanced capabilities. It  delivered continuous protection from data corruption, disasters, and security breaches. Additionally, automated I/O path management and data reduction ensured optimal performance. In the case of Proxmox, AiRE’s integration streamlined management of priority VMs, guaranteeing service security, redundancy, and fast recovery times.

The success of the initial deployment was so impressive that INS launched a second tender two years later. Their aim was to seamlessly expand the existing AiRE storage cluster to accommodate their growing storage demands. While the initial setup was challenged by the lack of readily available Proxmox integration, STORViX’s support proved invaluable in establishing optimal workflows for smooth hypervisor cluster operation. 

The most significant benefit for INS was the unwavering stability of the solution. Over seven years of operation, they haven’t experienced a single software failure impacting their operations, exceeding their expectations for reliability and significantly improving overall IT operations.

The results and future collaboration

After a successful first year, INS was thoroughly impressed by the robustness and efficiency of the STORViX solution. The AiRE IntelligentFiler systems not only addressed their specific storage needs but also delivered exceptional reliability, exceeding expectations. This positive experience has laid the groundwork for possible continued collaboration.

“Superior robustness and high flexibility! After having used the STORViX storage solution for 7 years, we can testify to not having had a single software failure that would have compromised our operational systems in any impactful way. The two hardware incidents (on three systems total), were all solved swiftly by the support without having to even reboot the filers. More importantly, The overall attitude of the STORViX support has always been very flexible and we’ve also seen our feature requests being developed and rolled out to a production release in a matter of a couple of months”.

Sam Kauranne, ICT Manager, The Institute of Natural Sciences (INS)

The Institute of Natural Sciences (INS)

The Institute of Natural Sciences (INS) is a leading scientific research institution in Belgium, housing the third-largest natural sciences collection in Europe. It encompasses a team of over 500 scientists, administrative staff, technicians and changing doctorate students, volunteers and interns. The research and collections of the INS inform policy and action to preserve biodiversity and understand our planet’s past, present, and future. The institute also serves the public through the Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences, home to the world-famous Dinosaur Gallery.

INS has been a valued client of STORViX since 2016, with their solution remaining robust and reliable over the years. The institute’s decision to continue with STORViX and upgrade their system highlights the effectiveness and trustworthiness of STORViX’s solutions.

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