Secure VMs and faster backups with 15-minute RPO

About the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) is one of the ten federal scientific establishments that are governed by the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo). It is involved in important scientific research activities and carries out public service missions. The institute is open to everyone through the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Today, the RBINS research team comprises 165 scientists and dozens of scientific staff, technicians and volunteers. It is a varied team that includes biologists, ecologists, geologists, mineralogists, palaeontologists, anthropologists, oceanographers, engineers and computer experts. This enables RBINS to carry out multidisciplinary research.

RBINS has enormous collections made up of approximately 38 million specimens that form an inexhaustible research resource. These ‘biodiversity archives’ are used to classify existing species and identify new ones, and to study their ecosystems. This research enables RBINS to amend policies in order to protect and preserve biodiversity. And now, with new techniques such as CT scans, isotope analysis and DNA sequencing, researchers are able to glean new information from old material on a daily basis.

The challenge

Slow backup operations posed a risk to RBINS’s ability to ensure its vital North Sea research data could be quickly secured. With infrastructure growing rapidly and plans to bring the operations of several departments together under a single central IT function, RBINS was concerned that its solution at the time would not be robust enough to handle this vast increase in data. Backup time was such a great concern that the directorate dragged its feet on implementing the planned consolidation until a more agile solution could be found.

It was also crucial that a new solution could ensure optimal performance tailored to RBINS’s fields of research and needs. This included using the system to manage virtual machines (VMs) and provide a suitable space to archive the results of simulations. As a result, the solution would also need to be easy to integrate with simulation software and VM management software. 

The solution

STORViX initially delivered two AiRE IntelligentFiler model 3128 systems to speed up backup time and keep both the VMs and simulation data safe. As the heart of IntelligentFiler, AiRE has powerful features that serve as the lifeblood of the full AiRE IntelligentFiler solution. These features provide continuous protection from corruption, disasters and breaches while optimal performance is always ensured by automating I/O path management, application profile recognition and data reduction.

By integration with Proxmox, AiRE ran all IT servers that are VMs to ensure that the institute’s IT services will always be secure and functional. Proxmox Virtual Environment is a complete open-source platform for all-inclusive enterprise virtualization that tightly integrates KVM hypervisor and LXC containers, software-defined storage, and networking functionality on a single platform, and in addition, it easily manages high availability clusters and disaster recovery tools with the built-in web management interface.

Thanks to the smart provisioning of AiRE, the RBINS team benefitted from a substantial improvement in the time it took to set up protection points, resulting in an impressive recovery point objective (RPO) of only 15 minutes.

After the first year, RBINS was so impressed with the value AiRE added for its teams and how enjoyable it was for them to use that it ordered another AiRE system to scale the solution and meet their need for more archiving space. RBINS and STORViX are also currently planning to leverage AiRE’s data protection and replication features to enable offsite copies in the near future.