ITS analyst Jason Hlady, left, and Sean Cavanaugh, ITS system administrator, peer into the new WestGrid data storage system.
Photo by Mark Ferguson
Every computer user has likely experienced a situation where work has been lost or erased at some point. But imagine if, despite your best efforts to backup, months or even years of research disappeared.
Jason Hlady, analyst and co-ordinator with Information Technology Services, said stories of lost research are not uncommon around the university, but they could be a thing of the past with the installation of a new high performance data storage system. The project is part of the WestGrid partnership between 14 universities to provide high-performance computing (HPC), collaboration and visualization infrastructure to researchers across Canada.
The new IBM storage system is the newest addition to WestGrid’s inter-institutional pool of storage and computing facilities. The $3.2 million investment is a partnership among WestGrid, the U of S, the Province of Saskatchewan, IBM, Compute Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
The new system is quite large, taking up about 60 sq. ft. of space in the basement of the Education Building, and capable of holding 6,000 storage tapes - making it the densest tape storage unit in the country, said Hlady. Tapes might seem old fashioned in the world of HPC, yet “they are a great way to store information for not much money. It’s very low power too.”
Each tape costs about $50 and can store up to one TB (terabyte) of information. The entire system could hold six PB (petabyte) of information, or as Hlady relates it for the average Joe, “1.5 billion MP3s”.
According to a U of S press release, there are a number of research projects across Canada, including some related to the Canadian Light Source synchrotron that can make use of a large data storage facility. The new resource will alleviate an existing shortage of data storage capacity across Western Canada.
In addition to backup services, the new storage system will also help increase the size, speed, resolution and depth of scientific analysis and calculations for researchers from all disciplines.