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Vanderbilt books Spectra tape library for research data

Research data can accumulate fast. A Spectra Logic tape library stores petabytes for Vanderbilt's research center, and the university plans to use far more backup storage space.

There's more than one library at Vanderbilt University that houses a large amount of important research information.

In addition to the classic version that holds books, a Spectra tape library now stores 2.5 petabytes (PB) from the university's Advanced Computing Center for Research & Education (ACCRE). The university purchased the Spectra Logic T950 Tape Library during the spring of 2018 and put it into production a few months ago, said Alan Tackett, technical director at ACCRE.

The center expects to grow to 3.5 PB of backup data on the Spectra tape library soon. ACCRE also purchased a Spectra BlackPearl Converged Storage System and expects to add several more petabytes through that platform.

ACCRE's networked computer cluster is used for research in a variety of fields, including genetics, particle physics and astronomy. While ACCRE operates separately from Vanderbilt University Information Technology, it processes data from more than 50 departments and centers, and about 850 researchers across the school. Its high-performance computing operations run on its own internally developed file system named LStore, a scalable logistical storage system, along with the IBM Spectrum Scale file system, according to Spectra.

Biosciences and genomics can easily generate hundreds of terabytes of data, said Will French, director of research computing operations at ACCRE. For example, the university needs to keep whole genome sequences.

The center needs to keep so much data on backup storage because of various funding agency data retention policies and the growth of genomics, medical imaging and experimental data, Tackett said.

Workflow for Spectra products at Vanderbilt
The Spectra Logic T950 Tape Library works in conjunction with the BlackPearl Converged Storage System.

Spectra products ready for more use

There's a limited amount of floor space in the data center where the T950 sits. In addition, the data center is replacing its telecommunications equipment and receiving an overhaul. So the Spectra tape library needs to fit among the existing equipment as the large changes occur.

"The T950 gives us the density to make that happen," Tackett said. "Additionally, its low power usage allows us to use the existing [uninterruptible power supply] and HVAC of the room."

The Spectra tape library features maximums of 120 drives, 10,020 cartridges and 120 PB of uncompressed data.

The Spectra tape library features maximums of 120 drives, 10,020 cartridges and 120 PB of uncompressed data. ACCRE is using 11 LTO-8 tape drives. As the BlackPearl and normal backup usage grows, Tackett said he could see the center adding several more drives in the next few years.

BlackPearl is starting a soft rollout. The center is waiting on the ability to integrate the BlackPearl's authentication with its local Lightweight Directory Access Protocol or Active Directory service before making it generally available, Tackett said.

The center's BlackPearl Converged Storage System will provide direct access to archival storage, according to Spectra. BlackPearl, an object storage platform, combines NAS and Spectra's S3-based interface with multiple storage targets. It's designed for numerous users to use it at the same time.

Tackett said ACCRE reduced its annual storage operating charge for clients by more than 50%. The center previously performed nightly backups to an IBM TS3500 Tape Library. The current backup process is similar, just now using the Spectra tape library.

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