Cedars-Sinai cures storage ills with clustered NAS

Clustered system reduced downtime, allowed easier expansion

If your job is a daily fight against time to save lives, the vagaries of a storage system should not get in your way. This is the problem that Dr. Parag Mallick faced at the Cedars-Sinai Center for Applied Molecular Medicine in Los Angeles, where he is the director of proteomics for the research division of the hospital. The solution Cedars-Sinai chose was clustered NAS.

“Part of what we do is clinical proteomics,” Mallick explains. “The goal is to be able to take a drop of blood from a patient, measure it in extreme detail, and based on what we find, diagnose if someone has cancer or not.”

It takes one hour to examine a single drop of a patient’s blood in the mass spectrometer at Cedars-Sinai, and the result creates about 50GB of time-series data. All told, this process generates about 1TB of data per day.

“We have a high-performance computing cluster — I think it’s rated 367th among the top 500 supercomputers — which we use to do sophisticated computational analysis on all the data we collect,” Mallick says. “We want to discover patterns that differentiate a patient group from another. If you can identify who is likely to respond [to a specific therapy], you’ve saved a lot of lives.”

Managing that data had been a problem, however. Many of the solutions Cedars-Sinai tried used tapes as their last-tier medium, which made computational analysis and pattern searches unacceptably slow. Other solutions were cumbersome and made moving data across tiers exceedingly complicated. Adding capacity required significant technical prowess and occasionally forced Cedars-Sinai to break its blood archive in smaller sections. It was time for a change.

“We wanted something that was easy to use, highly available, could scale very easily, and could also handle the performance requirements,” Mallick explains.

For Cedars-Sinai, Isilon offered the perfect solution. In April of last year the Center installed two tiers of Isilon clustered storage systems: an IQ1920 to collect data series from the mass spectrometer and an IQ6000 for long-term storage to support the supercomputing cluster. The 1920 can collect data independently for two to three weeks. When appropriate, the data is pushed to the 6000.

The Cedar-Sinai experience exemplifies the main advantages of a clustered NAS system such as the Isilon IQ. The Isilon solution’s single namespace can seamlessly grow to hundreds of terabytes, and it makes updates easy. Cedars-Sinai’s initial installation was about 20TB, but the total system has grown to almost 300TB. The hospital has been adding 30TB every two months without downtime. Moreover, the cost of the Isilon system was comparable or lower than previous solutions the hospital tried.