Case Study: Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) is an independent marine research charity with a 40-year history in providing cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research.

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About Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) is an independent marine research charity with a 40-year history in providing cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research. They aim to develop and apply innovative marine science to present evidence-based environmental solutions that ensure a sustainable future for our oceans. PML research is far-reaching ranging from acclaimed scientific papers to policy and training documents for marine scientists. PML has also contributed to UN Sustainable Development Goals. PML has a commercial subsidiary, PML Applications Ltd, which delivers solutions in the marine environment.

The Project Drivers

As a leading marine research charity, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) has a requirement to backup colossal amounts of data, safely and promptly. Their scientific research also necessitates them to cross-reference data from other agencies – including NASA – so they need quick access to both archived and recent research information. However, their backup and archive infrastructure was out-of-date and the reliance on backup to tapes was placing pressure on the teams to prioritise what should be archived.

Gary Holder, Head of Information Technology Group at PML, explains: “We had a 15-year-old server doing direct to tape backups. The amount of data being processed meant it was highly time inefficient to manage with hours of work and masses of tapes that needed swapping. It was a key priority to replace it.”

The Solution: A Modern Approach to Backup

S3, in partnership with Dell EMC, provided a comprehensive Backup and Disaster Recovery infrastructure, utilising Dell EMC Networker and 500TB Dell EMC Gen3 Elastic Cloud Storage, one of the first to be deployed in the UK. This included a refresh to the Networker Servers to support OS versions and the deployment of Networker Cloud Boost Appliance. While backup is now performed direct to disk and to virtual servers, it is physically cloned to tape for archive purposes using a Spectra Logic Tape Library with LTO-8 Tape Drives and Media to ensure the greatest levels of performance and capacity.

PML immediately started to replace some outdated systems and has seen a number of early benefits. In particular, the efficiency of the new systems has freed up their staff to be more proactive. And they are confident it will help them to better manage costs and system upgrades in the future.

Updating the load balancer

As part of the project, PML also needed to update their data to server load balancer from an existing model which was not powerful or scalable enough, creating a bottleneck in distribution.

“S3 was able to work with PML to come up with an alternative option that offered a long-term solution. From a technical perspective, the originally proposed load balancer had limitations we wanted to remove. With the new solution from loadbalancer.org we have unlimited capacity that can expand and contract and has flexible licensing options to reflect that model,” comments Gary.

Why S3 was selected as a partner

A large amount of time was taken to evaluate the options, but according to PML it was clear that S3 and Dell EMC had a “strong partnership” that resulted in them working together to “develop the right solution”. PML was also impressed with the way S3 used a consultative approach that utilised existing
knowledge in the PML business.

S3 and Dell EMC were flexible and responsive to the changing demands of the project, which included bringing in new technologies mid-way through as a result of new funding.

While Gary joined PML shortly after the tender – and so was not involved in the initial selection – he supported PML’s decision and commended both S3 and Dell EMC for being “patient and accommodating” to his needs.

“As someone new to the business who is unfamiliar with the current systems – but making decisions on a project that the business is spending a significant sum of money on – it was reassuring to get such a high level of service. Their supportiveness reinforced my decision that it was right choice.”

“It is great to have a modern approach to backup. We have the best of both worlds; tape for long-term retention and ECS for high-volume storage
requirements. Soon, we will have access to a high-speed backup window that supports our business continuity, Backup and Disaster Recovery strategies. I think we can sleep at night, knowing that all our data is safe and recoverable.”


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Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)

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