Polaris Data Centre

26/02/2021

QCIF’s end-of-life hierarchical data storage infrastructure that services QRIScloud was successfully replaced over the holiday season. 

Going forward, QRIScloud will be able to access the University of Queensland’s significant investment in the latest technology to create a bigger, better, faster service for researchers. 

The new system will accommodate both UQ research data, and selected QCIF Member data, as part of a new agreement between UQ and QCIF. 

Data will be served by UQ’s MeDiCI data platform, connecting all UQ supercomputers, desktops and scientific instruments as well as QRIScloud. 

The project, resulting in QRIScloud’s most significant storage upgrade in eight years, replaced end-of-life technologies with newer, more powerful and resilient hardware and software platforms for the preservation and storage of data collections, which will enable enhanced scalability and usability.

Users will already notice their QRIScloud data collection returning to them from storage faster than before.

Stephen Bird, QCIF’s Shared Infrastructure Services Manager, said: “With ever-increasing demands on data storage, whether that be capacity, performance, resilience or security, this timely and strategic investment by UQ provides the foundation for a dramatic shift in capabilities to support researchers’ data storage needs.”

The new platforms provide some exciting new features for users. Data collections will be directly connected with parallel file systems, providing a substantial improvement in data transfer speeds between collections and computational storage. 

User applications will respond more gracefully to storage requests, no matter where data is sitting in the storage hierarchy.  

The new technology provides options for workloads with high I/O requirements that have traditionally had latency issues with the existing storage. 

QCIF worked with UQ and James Cook University to replace QRIScloud’s hierarchical storage management (HSM) system, which was at its end-of-life. The bulk of the work took place at the highly secure Polaris Data Centre in Springfield, where the UQ and QRIScloud hardware is housed. 

The team also worked closely with the technology vendors in Germany, Japan and the US throughout the installation process.

Only QRIScloud and UQ data collections were affected during the shutdown period from 5pm, Thursday, 24 December 2020 to 9am, Monday, 4 January 2021, in which the new hardware and software were installed.

QCIF’s cloud compute services remained operational during the process albeit without access to QRIScloud data collections. 

Notifications were sent to QRIScloud users well before the shutdown to inform them of the process and assure them their data would remain safe. 

This work precedes an additional project to refresh the national cloud computing network for research. QCIF and its New South Wales-based counterpart, Intersect, will provide new infrastructure for the Australian Research Data Commons’ (ARDC) Nectar Research Cloud (see our previous article about this work).