University of Arizona receives IBM grant for massive virtual storage system for life sciences data


The Arizona Research Laboratories (ARL) at the University of Arizona today announced it was awarded a new IBM Shared University Research (SUR) grant of a storage infrastructure that will give researchers efficient access and ability to manage vast amounts of biological data.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to team with IBM in implementing leading-edge technology," said Michael Cusanovich, director of ARL and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics.

Researchers from IBM and the University of Arizona will collaborate to build a massive storage environment for large volumes of diverse types of life sciences data, including MRI images, genomic sequences and microscopy images.

The project has capabilities to scale to petabytes of data and will help the university manage, integrate and access their current repository of digital assets as well as organize and convert non-digitized assets to a digital format. IBM TotalStorage disk and tape systems will allow data to be managed throughout its lifecycle in different tiers of storage.

At its core, the grant will enable the development of a data life cycle management system that allows researchers to have data storage provisioned autonomically as it is needed, in a non-disruptive manner transparent to users and applications.

"This solution will permit growth while there is work in progress, a crucial component when you have hundreds of users utilizing a centralized system," said Nirav Merchant, director of information technology for ARL.

The UA will also be able to use this infrastructure to transfer data that researchers access at much higher rates from remote sites, and aid data management by migrating infrequently used files to economical storage locations while retrieving it on demand without any user intervention.

This provides researchers with the scaleable framework needed to compete for data-intensive grants, such as the newer, team science-based opportunities from the National Institutes of Health, broadening the UA's research base.

"We are excited about the possibilities this project holds for our ability to carry out biomedical and life-science research. Developing more advanced, integrated storage capabilities will significantly improve research processes and simplify our infrastructure," said Cusanovich.

"Working with IBM on this project provides a unique opportunity to gain access to the hardware, software and industry experts that will help us drive innovation in these important areas."

IBM will be able to measure how data is moved and accessed throughout its life cycle, allowing the company to optimize its future software and hardware offerings.

"The ability to effectively store and access large amounts of data is essential in life sciences research," said Charles Lickel, Senior State Executive for IBM in Arizona. "We are pleased to be working with the University of Arizona to develop new ways for technology to aid research in an area that is the key to fueling innovation in the study, diagnosis and cure of diseases."

Under the grant, the UA will involve five typically different life sciences research environments and more than 500 participating researchers with diverse storage needs.

"The SUR grant will also increase the ongoing collaboration between the UA and IBM's Storage System development headquarters in Tucson, giving us access to many of the storage industry's top technical minds," Merchant said. "At the same time, this implementation will involve undergraduate and graduate students who will benefit IBM Tucson as they gain expertise with new technology."

The grant is part of the latest series of awards, bringing IBM's contributions to foster collaborative research to more than $70 million over the last three years. The awards support the advancement of university projects by connecting top researchers in academia with IBM research and technical innovators, along with representatives from product development and solution provider communities.

Through this program, IBM sustains one of its most important commitments to universities aimed at fueling innovation. Research projects each reflect the nature of innovation in the 21st century - at the intersection of business value and computing infrastructure.

The announcement also complements IBM's comprehensive storage strategy, allowing customers to manage information throughout its life, simplify their infrastructures, and provide back-up and recovery for data.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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