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Columbia University Selects Isilon's Storage for Bioinformatics Research


Columbia University's Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics has selected Isilon's scale-out network-attached storage system to support its research efforts, the EMC subsidiary said this week.

Specifically, Columbia deployed the company's X-Series and NL-Series platform nodes along with its SmartPools and SmartQuotas software applications, to provide increased system performance and flexibility and streamline researchers' access to data, Isilon said.

The new infrastructure will also support Columbia's Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Institute for Cancer Genomics, and its Genome Center.

Altogether, the new storage system will support 4,000 CPUs used in areas such as computational biophysics and structural biology that require researchers to process large quantities of genomic data for sequence analysis and to perform molecular biophysical simulations.

In April, Isilon added two new NAS hardware platforms — Isilon S200 and X200 — to its product portfolio to address the challenges of "big data" environments in the life sciences and other research fields that generate on the order of hundreds to thousands of terabytes (BI 04/15/2011).

John Lowell Wofford, director of IT services for Columbia's C2B2, said that the center previously relied on a traditional NAS system that "struggled to support the huge amounts of input/output demands" on its compute infrastructure.

The center currently has nearly a petabyte of data.

"After switching to Isilon, we no longer had to worry that our system couldn't handle our research demands," Wofford said in a statement. "We knew that we could independently scale capacity and performance, so that we buy only what we need, when we need it."

Furthermore, C2B2 researchers use genomic databases that require a heavy amount of namespace reads to index, Wofford said, noting that 40 percent of the read-write requests on the center's system are namespace-related.

Isilon's X-Series use of SSDs for metadata and file-based storage speeds namespace-read performance and provides a huge improvement over C2B2's previous computing/NAS system infrastructure, he said.

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