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British Antarctic Survey Protects Large Volumes of Research Data at Sea with Quantum


Quantum Tape Systems Safeguard Data Collected at Earth’s Poles on a Custom-Built Research Vessel

Quantum has announced that British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is implementing Quantum Scalar i3 tape libraries on the brand-new RRS Sir David Attenborough research vessel to back up vital scientific data collected at the Earth’s poles. The tape libraries provide scalability for large data volumes, minimize the storage footprint on a space-constrained ship, and facilitate easy transport of data back to the organization’s UK office.

“The Scalar i3 library allows us to have the library and server blade in one box. We can just plug it into the network and go from there,” says Jeremy Robst, IT support engineer for the British Antarctic Survey.

Planning a Data Backup Solution for a New Research Vessel
The UK’s National Environment Research Council (NERC) commissioned a custom-built research vessel to facilitate cutting-edge scientific projects at the Earth’s poles. Operated by BAS, the new ship—the RSS Sir David Attenborough—is equipped with specialized laboratories and instruments that enable researchers to study water properties, sea animals, the sea floor, the atmosphere, and more.

The BAS IT team needed to implement all the necessary information technology for the ship’s research “cruises,” which typically last between six weeks and two months. Providing sufficient data storage and backup capacity was a top priority. “We estimated that researchers would produce roughly two orders of magnitude more data than on our previous vessel,” says Robst. “That might mean anywhere from 10 to 100 TB during a single research cruise. We had to supply storage and backup equipment that could handle that data.”

Protecting Large Data Volumes with Quantum Scalar Tape Systems
After considering tape solutions from multiple vendors, the IT team selected Quantum Scalar i3 tape libraries. The decision was partly based on the integrated, converged design of the Scalar i3, which combines the library and a server blade in a single enclosure. That design greatly simplifies installation.

The IT team is implementing two Scalar i3 libraries on the Sir David Attenborough. One supports the Veeam® software used for daily backups from disk storage. The other library uses a Scalar linear tape file system (LTFS), which supports file-system operations.

Gaining Compact Storage with LTO-8
Minimizing the storage footprint is vital on a research ship— even on a seemingly large, new vessel. By choosing Scalar i3 libraries equipped with LTO-8 drives, the IT group can store up to 12 TB of data per cartridge, or 30 TB compressed. “With the Scalar i3 library, we can use the latest drive technology—and that lets us pack as much data as possible into a very small footprint,” says Robst.

Making It Easy to Transport Data Back to England
The IT team can make copies of backed-up data using LTFS. Then, at the end of the research cruise, the team can simply pack up the copies in their suitcases and bring them back to the UK office by plane. “That way we can easily make data readily available to other researchers,” says Robst.

Preparing for the Maiden Voyage
The coronavirus pandemic slowed the installation of the IT environment on the ship, but the IT team is ready to put the new storage environment through its paces. Says Robst: “We’re hoping that by the end of the year, we’ll have taken the vessel to sea to really experience how these libraries can help assist with some important research.”

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