When Albert Einstein attended the Hollywood premier of the movie, City Lights, the crowds cheered him on wildly. Charlie Chaplin told him, “They cheer me because they all understand me, and they cheer you because no one understands you.” When Einstein won the Noble Prize in Physics in 1921, it was for “his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” Still, no one in the world truly understood his theory of relativity at the time. Object storage is not any different from any other smart historic paradigm shift – technology or otherwise. In essence, it’s a pretty simple storage theory, but people have yet to fully grasp the real value of object storage and time will tell whether they’re able to leverage the opportunities it enables.
While DDN probably won’t win the Noble prize for Physics anytime soon, we are getting recognition for how we’re changing the storage industry with Web Object Scaler (WOS). And these days, that recognition is coming directly from Albert Einstein, or at least the University he agreed to give his name to in 1953.
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine was founded as a department of Yeshiva University in 1951 to “prepare physicians and researchers to excel in the science and the art of medicine and basic, translational and clinical investigation.” Einstein was charmed by the fact that the school would “welcome students of all creeds and races.”
Fast forward to 2013: Shailesh Shenoy, the program’s director of engineering and operations at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, had a storage problem to solve: the Integrated Imaging Program’s (IIP) microscopes in his department were generating more data than his infrastructure could manage. We at DDN call that ‘a Big Data problem’. The IIP microscopes generate approximately 1 TB per week of specimen images. Like most research centers, the department has limited resources and IT staff. Therefore, it needed a storage system that would be easy to scale and manage, and provide integrated multi-site data protection and collaboration. More details about the use case can also be found in this article by TechTarget’s Carol Sliwa.
At DDN, we are always very excited to learn and write about customer projects. This project is still in its infancy, but there are a few very interesting elements in it with regards to object storage:
- The data in case is sensor data, more specifically state-of-the-art microscope data. Future upgrades of these “sensors” will provide even higher resolution images, which again will impact the department’s storage requirements. As a result, data volumes for this project will increase both in object quantities and object sizes.
- Shailesh Shenoy understood early on that he needed to deploy a storage infrastructure with no scalability limitations. While his current needs could still be managed by conventional storage, he recognized that only object storage would allow him to avoid future migration projects. Also, as the storage for the IIP is managed by the engineering and operations team, management-intensive storage architectures were not an option.
- The biggest value of WOS for the IIP, however, is the straightforward application integration through the native WOS API’s. Instead of mounting shared network drives, users can now collaborate using a simple Java client that connects to the open source OMERO microscope image management system. And this is only the start as Mr. Shenoy is planning to have more applications connect to WOS. One shared storage pool for multiple applications, it’s what object storage was designed for.
What I found particularly interesting in Carol Sliwa’s coverage of this DDN success story, is how it neutralizes the two key arguments against object storage: “Two knocks on object storage systems have been performance and proprietary APIs, but neither has been a problem for Shenoy. He said WOS performance has been good, and DDN’s proprietary WOSLib and HTTP/REST APIs don’t concern him. Some of IIP’s collaborators also use WOS.”
Such testimonials are very important in the object storage debate, and it’s great to see WOS solve the issues that other platforms have been creating. Once again, the NoFS, pure object storage design (WOS is the only object storage platform with no file systems anywhere in the architecture) is key to the success. In this case it helped to meet the performance requirements for Shenoy’s project. Even more important are DDN’s efforts to provide easy application integration: by offering a wide selection of API’s (Native REST, S3, application-specific API’s), file system gateways and by supporting third party applications like iRODS, the University was able to put WOS in production in the shortest time. We’re pretty sure that Albert Einstein would have been proud!
DDN probably won’t win the Nobel prize for Physics, but we did come close this year! A Belgian co-winner is good enough for me!