Geomatics gets going with gateways

Effectively storing and managing 120 terabytes (1 terabyte = one trillion bytes) of aerial and geospatial data is no walk in the park – as North West Geomatics Inc. discovered.

The company, which provides high-quality aerial data acquisition services, captures these records by deploying a fleet of aircraft, each generating 150 GB to 500 GB of data on an average day in the skies.

Data growth at Calgary-based Geomatics was exponential, and much faster than its previous Storage Area Network (SAN) could keep pace with. “We needed to consolidate our storage [systems] to improve uptime, reduce costs, and accommodate our rapid growth,” said John Welter, vice-president at Geomatics.

He said his company has achieved all this and much more by deploying four Bobcat NAS gateways from ONStor Inc. in Los Gatos, Calif.

The rollout has displaced a bunch of Windows servers attached to a storage network comprising several external RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) subsystems. To maintain acceptable performance levels, additional servers had to be added for every 10 terabytes of storage.

The Bobcat gateways, however, have saved the company that labour and expense.

According to Geomatics, the gateways consolidate storage from multiple Windows, Linux and Unix storage servers into a single, highly scalable environment with a capacity of up to 40,000 terabytes, and without any disruption to user activity or data migration.

To accomplish this using other vendor “solutions” would have required significant additions to the company’s existing infrastructure at a huge additional cost. According to Welter, by opting for ONStor, his company has saved around 70 per cent of those costs, as the product makes more effective use of existing equipment.

Welter, who has a background in electrical engineering, said after evaluating solutions from NetApp, Panasas, Isilon and Polyserve, Geomatics selected ONStor NAS gateways for their scalability, availability and exceptional performance. “Most importantly, ONStor offers the only NAS solution that allows us to re-use existing storage.”

Initially Geomatics installed two Bobcats, but within the month had purchased another two. “We wanted to scale up performance,” Welter said. “The storage capabilities will probably do us good for the next 10 years, but we’re pushing through enormous bandwidth and we had to look ahead to maximizing performance, considering our rate of growth.”

Geomatics, he said, routinely pushes 650 Mbps of data off its SAN into the Ethernet realm across the four Bobcats. He said his company is eagerly awaiting the release of the next Bobcat version. “Right now four cluster nodes [are] good, 16 would be better, but by the end of the year we’ll be operating with 64 Bobcats. And the Ethernet connection will be boosted from 4 gigabits to 10.”

Jon Toor, vice-president of marketing at ONStor, said the Bobcat gateways trumped the competition, as Bobcat allows clients to re-use existing assets, which saves cost and reduces complexity. He said ONStor’s open storage approach provides “significant savings” to Geomatics compared with proprietary NAS solutions, each of which pushes for an entire data migration. “That would be like starting a network from scratch – a complete overhaul of storage.”

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