Keeping Storage in Mind - 2.6 Petabytes for Brain Research - courtesy of Scientific Computing World

The ICM, an international center for neurological research, has opted for a solution based on Active Circle software for storing several petabytes of scientific data. This data – comprised primarily of measurements, images, and analytical results – will benefit from a secure and flexible virtualized storage architecture.

Founded in Paris by Professors Gérard Saillant, Yves Agid and Olivier Lyon-Caen, the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (the Brain & Spine Institute) is the product of a new model in neuroscientific research. Located in the Hospital Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris, this unique international institute occupying 22,000 m² is at the heart of the approach to patient care. Government agencies, businesses, and benefactors are working hand in hand to bring together patients, doctors, and some of the most prestigious researchers in the world in order to work together to find new treatments for neurological disorders.


From the very beginning, the information technology team under the direction of Dominique Bayle had developed a vision, one which they shared with their scientific colleagues, of an architecture based on three pillars: computing power, the network, and data storage. The role of the ICM is to provide researchers the technical infrastructure to perform their work in the best conditions possible, the guideline being that the infrastructure, in particular the data storage, should not be a hindrance to research.


Looking three years ahead, the IT team drew up their plan and wrote the specifications for a storage system that would be capable of managing high volumes of data, scalable, secure, and hierarchical. “We were looking for intelligent storage, because it needs to be administered by a small team,” states Dominique Bayle. “It had to be self-protected and to offer built-in features for restoring data.”


The result of the invitation to tender was the selection of the solution proposed by Active Circle and NEC. “We observed an excellent level of cooperation between NEC and Active Circle, who were always willing to listen to our requirements and were able to propose the solution best adapted to our expectations. Active Circle provides us hardware independence, a tiered storage space, and the automatic protection of our data. We can upgrade the storage hardware as the technologies develop without modifying the organization or impacting the service. Because users can access restore functionality in the event of an error or data loss, they can concentrate more fully on their research activity,” highlights Dominique Bayle.


The hardware solution was provided by NEC's HPCE division. It consists of three servers with SATA disk bays for a capacity of 1.3 petabytes of replicated data, or a total of 2.6 petabytes. The Active Circle software is installed on the three servers and provides the virtualized storage space, all the while transparently supplying all of the services necessary for managing the data: replication, migration, lifecycle management, and archiving. “We are administering a single solution, not multiple applications, something which is crucial for a small team like ours.”


The researchers are given an empty data space to receive the results from their instruments and that data is automatically backed up. They also have space for data analysis, which can be either private or collaboratively shared. Regular archiving of versions or snapshots occurs at different stages during the projects. And it all happens automatically.


The system has been installed at the ICM site in Paris and has already begun to receive data from the research teams. The IT team is already working on plans for future development, in particular the extension of the system's capacity. “We need to anticipate developments in the area of the instrumentation, which are progressing and producing ever greater amounts of data. At the same time, we are working on a disaster recovery plan that entails backing up the data on a remote site,” concludes Dominique Bayle.


About Active Circle

Created in 2002, Active Circle develops and markets an innovative software-based solution that addresses the need for storing, preserving, and managing large volumes of digital content. The Active Circle software has been designed for organizations that manage video content, images, scientific and technical data, to help them better control the lifecycle of their data while at the same time keeping down the costs of storage ownership and administration.


About ICM

The Brain & Spine Institute (ICM) is a research centre of international dimensions without equivalent in the world, innovative both by design and organization. By bringing together under one roof patients, physicians and researchers, the objective is to produce rapid treatment of lesions affecting the nervous system and to apply them to patients in the speediest possible way. Coming from various horizons and all countries, the best scientists will develop cutting-edge research in this field.


About NEC High Performance Computing Europe (HPCE)

NEC Deutschland GmbH, formed in 1987 with its head office in Düsseldorf, Germany, is a 100 per cent subsidiary of NEC Corporation. Its product portfolio encompasses supercomputers and high-performance computing, telecommunication and IT solutions, as well as biometric security solutions for enterprises and public institutions. Further information is available on the Internet at