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Unified storage improves university research efficiency

Researchers at the University of Birmingham can work more collaboratively, and on simultaneous projects

The University of Birmingham has drastically boosted the speed of its archaeological research thanks to a new storage solution from IBM.

The IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA), at the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the university, recently completed a project to map and understand the submerged landscape of the west coast of the UK. The data from the project will support heritage activity and inform potential offshore developers, including wind farm developers.

The project was completed faster than expected due to the implementation of a 12TB IBM System Storage EXP3000 Express and an IBM System x3550 M2 Server, with 2x4C Intel CPUs. The system was configured and installed by OCF, the high performance data processing, management and storage provider, in December 2009.

"Without this new solution a project which has taken nearly two years to complete would have taken potentially decades," said Simon Fitch, marine archaeologist and VISTA research fellow.

The project processed data gathered from the oil and gas industry, and some offshore survey companies, which, prior to the new storage solution, was stored on PCs and tapes. The project had around seven terabytes of data in total to store, after processing.

"We unified a lot of our datasets, keeping it in one place, all with back up," said Fitch.

The new storage solution helped the researchers work faster because it meant that more people could access the data at once, so they no longer had to carry out several different projects one after another.

"Now we can do it all in one go," said Fitch.

The system also connects to a large 3D cinema wall, which allows the researches to work more collaboratively, and also improved the viewing of images that were clearer in 3D.

"Some of these things are very intrinsically 3D. For example, some of the river channels in the Liverpool Bay area over-lie each other, and look like one in 2D, but are actually multiple channels in 3D," Fitch explained.

The university is planning to conduct similar landscaping projects in the Middle East, which Fitch says will use similar storage systems to store the processed data.


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