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Population Boom, Energy Boom

Yasir Yousuff

Sr. Director, Global Geo Marketing at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

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In its 2015 World Population Prospects report, the United Nations documented the global population at 7.3 billion with 60 percent attributed to rising Asia.

As with most, if not all emerging economies, energy consumption has witnessed exponential growth in recent decades, spurred by expanded economic activity that has done well to lift much of the masses into a more prosperous middle class. Living standards have improved as a consequence, further accelerating demand for energy to power luxuries like air-conditioning, consumer electronics, and automobiles, among others.

So what does this all mean? With global population set to climb to 9.7 billion by 2050m the strain on the world’s energy resources is expected to increase exponentially.

Hitting a Rocky Patch

oilandgas_resizeHere’s where Chuanqing Drilling Engineering (CDE), a Geophysical Prospecting Company of China National Petroleum Corporation, enters the fray. China is the biggest energy consumer in Asia and relies on companies like CDE to uncover new energy sources to feed its ever-growing appetite.

The services offered by CDE are extensive and high in demand both in China and the global stage. They include engineering and geological research, geophysical surveys, drilling engineering, downhole services, mud logging, well logging and perforating, oil and gas field engineering construction and development, civil works, as well as oil/gas field cooperative development.

Specialized these fields are, yet all derive their invaluable insights from seismic data processed by high-performance computing software. Unbeknownst to many, these industry applications are much more robust than the ones that run on any given PC. The algorithms and calculations that make sense of gargantuan raw data solicited from seismic explorations in varying geological environments are extremely complex, owing to the need for mechanical precision that can make or break any mission-critical task.

In this regard, it is not surprising that the few SAN storage systems deployed by CDE had issues handling the massive growth of data from its exploration activities. Reduced storage capacity resulted in diminished performance, which inadvertently made data analysis increasingly challenging.

A Well-Drilled Solution

CDE’s problem was overwhelming to say the least but its solution was one of relative simplicity: a highly scalable, high-performance platform to meet the demands of its exploration activities and data analysis. In essence, a change of CDE’s IT environment was long overdue and called for.

Following comprehensive consultations with EMC, CDE made the decision to implement a single cluster comprising EMC Isilon X410 with 23 nodes, providing scaling capacity up to 1.6 petabytes. With scale-out NAS deployed, the system possessed the further ability to scale up to 50 petabytes when the need eventually called for it.

Discovering Productivity

“EMC Isilon storage is far easier to manage and has resulted in considerable savings. We estimate that we’ve achieved a 33 percent reduction in costs,” says Tang Chengbing, Director of the Computer Center at CDE.

In an industry where financials are monitored in the billions, not millions, 33 percent represents a significant figure that can mean the different between a profitable or loss-making calendar year.

Storage aside, software such as EMC Isilon SmartQuotas and SmartDedupe have enabled CDE to simplify workflows and eliminate duplicates from a high accessible and secure single volume of storage. It is all part of an ecosystem of smarter allocation so working divisions never face a shortage of capacity nor wasteful surplus like they did with disparate storage solutions.

Future Ready Energy Exploration

Problem solved? Yes, but it is just the beginning.

“It is inevitable that data volumes will increase in the next few years, and with that in mind we need strong technical support from our IT partners,” adds Tang.

The diversity and intensity of seismic data analytics will only become more robust as innovation continues to take flight in this vital field. With EMC’s storage infrastructure firmly established in the company’s operating DNA, CDE can now adopt new solutions flexibly in tandem with fast-paced technological progress.

Read the Chuanqing Drilling Engineering Case Study to learn more.


Infrastructure Convergence Takes Off at Melbourne Airport

Yasir Yousuff

Sr. Director, Global Geo Marketing at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Latest posts by Yasir Yousuff (see all)

By air, by land, or by sea? Which do you reckon is the most demanding means of travel these days? In asking so, I’d like to steer your thoughts to the institutions and businesses that provide transportation in these myriad segments.

Melbourne Airport_resizedHands down, my pick would be aviation; out of which the heaviest burden falls on any international airport operating 24/7. Let’s take Melbourne Airport in Australia for example. In a typical year, some 32 million passengers transit through its doors – almost a third more than Australia’s entire population. If you think that’s a lot; that figure looks set to double to 64 million by 2033.

As the threat of terrorism grows, so will the criteria for stringent checks. And as travelers get more affluent, so will their expectations. Put the two together, you get somewhat of a paradoxical dilemma that needs to be addressed.

So how does Australia’s only major 24/7 airport cope with these present and future demands?

First Class Security Challenges

Beginning with security, airports have come to terms with the fact that sole passport checks in the immigration process isn’t sufficient. Thanks to Hollywood movies and their depictions of how easy it is to get hold of “fake” passports – think Jason Bourne but in the context of a “bad” guy out to harm innocents, a large majority of the public within the age of reasoning would have to agree that more detailed levels of screening are a necessity.

“Some of the things we need to look at are new technologies associated with biometrics, new methods of running through our security and our protocols. Biometrics will require significant compute power and significant storage ability,” says Paul Bunker, Melbourne Airport’s Business Systems & ICT Executive.

With biometrics, Bunker is referring to breakthroughs such as fingerprint and facial recognition. While these data dense technologies are typically developed in silos, airports like the Melbourne Airport need them to function coherently as part of its integrated security ecosystem and processed in near real-time to ensure authorities have ample time to respond to threats.

First Class Service Challenges

Then there are the all-important passengers who travel in and out for a plethora of reasons: some for business, some for leisure, and some on transit to other destinations.

Whichever the case, most, if not all of them, expect a seamless experience. In this regard, it means free from the hassles of waiting for long periods to clear immigration, picking up luggage at belts almost immediately after, and the list goes on.

With the airport’s IT systems increasingly strained in managing these operational outcomes, a more sustainable way forward is inevitable.

First Class Transformative Strategy

Melbourne Airport has historically been more reactive and focused heavily on maintenance but that has changed in recent times. Terminal 4, which opened in August 2015, became the airport’s first terminal to embrace digital innovation, boasting Asia-Pacific’s first end-to-end self-service model from check-in kiosks to automated bag drop facilities.

This comes against the backdrop of a new charter that aims to enable IT to take on a more strategic role and drive greater business value through technology platforms.

“We wanted to create a new terminal that was effectively as much as possible a fully automated terminal where each passenger had more control over the environment,” Bunker explained. “Technical challenges associated with storing massive amounts of data generated not only by our core systems but particularly by our CCTV and access control solutions is a major problem we had.”

First Class Solution

In response, Melbourne Airport implemented two VCE Vblock System 340 with a VNX5600 converged infrastructure solution featuring 250 virtual servers and 2.5 petabytes of storage capacity. Two EMC Isilon NL series clusters were further deployed at two sites for production and disaster recovery.

Business People Rushing Walking Plane Travel Concept

The new converged infrastructure has allowed Melbourne Airport to simplify its IT operations by great leaps, creating a comfortable buffer that is able to support future growth as the business matures. It has also guaranteed high availability on key applications like baggage handling and check-in, crucial in the development of Terminal 4 as a fully automated self-service terminal.

While key decision-makers may have a rational gauge on where technological trends are headed, it is far from 100%. These sweeping reforms have effectively laid the foundations to enable flexibility in adopting new technologies across the board – biometrics for security and analytics for customer experience enhancement – whenever the need calls for it. Furthermore, the airport can now do away with separate IT vendors to reduce management complexity.

Yet all these come pale in comparison to the long-term collaborative working relationship Melbourne Airport has forged with EMC to support its bid to become an industry-leading innovation driver of the future.

Read the Melbourne Airport Case Study to learn more.


Sci-Fi Today, Reality TV Tomorrow

Yasir Yousuff

Sr. Director, Global Geo Marketing at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Latest posts by Yasir Yousuff (see all)

There’s been a fair bit of hype surrounding the latest SpaceX upright rocket landing. Simple as it seems, the excitementSci-Fi Today, Reality TV Tomorrow, at least for me, stems from how the feat has brought us one step closer to fulfilling our sci-fi fantasies – etched into our minds by the many blockbuster flicks Hollywood has produced.

If you can recall one of the opening scenes of The Martian, we witnessed the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) lifting off, attempting to escape an ensuing dust storm. While most of the focus was on the misfortune of Mark Watney – played by Matt Damon, left behind after being struck by debris, you could say we took for granted how easily the MAV ascended into space. Combine the thought of how the MAV got there in the first place, and you have yourself a similar parallel to the SpaceX launch and landing.

So what am I getting at? Science fiction only remains science fiction until technology catches up with our imagination. This applies not just to space travel, but every other area of technological advancement.


News Informs, Animated News Empowers

Yasir Yousuff

Sr. Director, Global Geo Marketing at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Latest posts by Yasir Yousuff (see all)

Animated NewsNews not only informs us of what’s happening around the world. Its investigative nature enhances our system of checks and balances, uncovering wrongdoings and deep-rooted conspiracies that undermine the very integral values of modern civil society.

No, we’re not here to discuss Mossack Fonseca, though its recent revelations do lend a certain credibility to what we plan to talk about.

Did you catch Disney’s latest animation film, Zootopia? For the benefit of those who didn’t, it tells the story of a rabbit police officer and red fox con artist working together to uncover a conspiracy involving the mysterious disappearance of predator civilians. Not many have realized this, but the movie’s ability to explain the concept of a conspiracy to adolescents is something to marvel at.

This makes you wonder about the storytelling power of animation, and whether it could further enhance our understanding of everyday news. Forget erudite commentary understood only by a handful. Think vernacular language, and its mass appeal.


Death Stars Are Powerless Against the Power of Knowledge

Yasir Yousuff

Sr. Director, Global Geo Marketing at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Latest posts by Yasir Yousuff (see all)

We have seen it happen again and Death Staragain, first with the Death Star, then with the Death Star II, and most recently, with the Starkiller Base. Precision shots by a pilot equipped with the right knowledge could destroy a weaponized base a thousand times bigger than his fighter craft. If you know what we’re talking about, chances are you’re a Star Wars fan, or have at least watched the series and understood the plot.

Medical Treatment Vs Death Star Destruction

So what do medical treatment and the destruction of Death Stars have in common? For one, it saves lives. For another, how insightful knowledge lies at the heart of such noble activity. But you see, insights do not just show themselves. They are the refined product of data analysis, supported by a base of powerful infrastructure.

To offer a better idea, let’s turn our attention to Sydney Adventist Hospital. Commonly referred to as the San, the facility is New South Wales’ largest private hospital, with some 53,000 patients and 180,000 outpatients treated annually.

Doctors here use a picture archive and communication system (PACS) as an essential diagnostic tool for patients. Since 2004, the average PACS study size for each patient has doubled from 32 megabytes to 76 megabytes with the number of cases exploding from 1,457 to over 64,000 studies a year.

“It is difficult to assess future storage requirements in a hospital environment because we can’t predict what diagnostic modalities will be brought on board,” says John Hoang, Senior Systems Engineer at Sydney Adventist Hospital.

At the San, specialist departments do their own research, attend conferences, and decide what tools will make a difference to patient outcomes. This means that the storage environment needs to be able to accommodate new tools as they are onboarded.

One can only imagine the kind of storage requirements needed to support such data expansion. And more than that, the speed required to scour and retrieve the right data files.

Imagine if you were an X-Wing fighter pilot taking heavy enemy fire and you had just one fly pass to take a single shot to destroy the Death Star. Chances are you’d need to know where to make the shot, and you’d need to know it really quick.

Similarly, time waits for no man in the medical world. Sometimes doctors only have one shot to treat a patient, and they need all the insights they can glean from patient diagnostic data. And they need it fast.

Turning Uncertainty into Certain Certainty

In addition to the San’s existing EMC VNX unified storage solution, a PACS storage environment has been deployed with two EMC Isilion X-Series clusters at two separate sites with 85 terabytes of storage. This has been further enhanced by EMC Isilon SyncIQ to provide easy-to-manage replication of data between the two sites, which is critical to the hospital’s agile infrastructure, ensuring all nodes in the Isilon cluster concurrently send and receive data during replication jobs.

“The PACS system is more resilient because more storage is handled on a multi-node architecture. If we lose one node, we still have two nodes online so specialists can continue to retrieve images. In this sense the technology has paid for itself – we simply don’t need to worry about outages or disruption to services due to storage limitations anymore,” explains Hoang.

Another piece of good news is when data volumes increase, capacity can be seamlessly scaled to ensure performance is consistent. An Isilon X-Series cluster can be easily brought online within minutes, with a single cluster possessing the ability to scale from a few terabytes to more than 50 petabytes. Now that’s over 200 gigabytes per second of throughput. From another perspective, a patient’s entire PACS history file could be downloaded even before a doctor finishes saying, “Do you feel pain here?”

A Legacy Forged Today

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Perhaps in a century or more, technology and medical historians would look back at this period as a defining moment where data represented infinite possibilities for human health. Who would have thought something as simple yet complex at the same time, such as data storage and retrieval, could play such a pivotal role?

Space Fury in a Med Rush for Information

Yasir Yousuff

Sr. Director, Global Geo Marketing at EMC Emerging Technologies Division

Latest posts by Yasir Yousuff (see all)

7,000 to 8,000 patients a day. 1.89 million patients a year. All in a single 1,400-bed facility providing medical research, teaching and rehabilitation services. This is the Nanjing Children’s Hospital (NCH), the largest children’s medical facility in Jiangsu Province, China.

Doing the Right Thing Presents ChallengesHealthcare

If you caught Mad Max: Fury Road sometime in 2015, you could probably imagine what the situation would be like when desperate masses can’t get their immediate needs met. In the case of Mad Max, it was thousands of thirsty people deprived of water, a precious commodity held back by the evil cult leader, Immortan Joe, to control and keep them in constant disarray.

When someone enters with a medical emergency, the hospital has to find a way to treat the patient, even if the hospital can’t cope with the capacity. And for reason and one reason alone: because it’s the right, human thing to do. The good news is where human limitations await, technology opens doors.

Many hospitals like NCH rely heavily on a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) for x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. This system supports accurate and rapid diagnosis as well as treatment by radiologists and attending physicians.

One of the problems faced by NCH was how its existing storage, which supported both its PACS and Hospital Information System (HIS), could not keep up with the performance and capacity required to meet the demands associated with more advanced medical imaging technology.

A research paper titled Empowering Personalized Medicine with Big Data and Semantic Web Technology: Promises, Challenges, and Use Cases predicts by 2020, healthcare data will reach 25,000 petabytes, a 50-hold increase from 2012. As new medical devices are introduced to offer better treatment modalities to patients in hospitals, the demands of storing and accessing data will become more prevalent.

Making It Easier to Do the Right Thing

So what’s the solution? The flexibility of a single file system storage that makes it easy for physicians to search, archive and scale, when required.

In NCH’s context, EMC Isilon’s X200 Series scale-out storage was implemented as the platform for its PACS solution. It has not only enabled quick scalability, but maintains system performance as more users and files are added, speeding access to large numbers of recent and historical medical images and records.

Like how speed was critical to saving the lives of Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max as they attempted to escape an entourage of villains, speedy access to information can also save the lives of patients. Every split second counts in medical treatment, sometimes making the difference between life and death.

“In the past, I didn’t want to add too many users to PACS because I knew it would affect the experience of the current users in the system,” says Sunnan Qian, IT Manager at NCH. “Now I can increase the number of PACS users as demand requires with the confidence that performance will be maintained, ensuring we provide our physicians with consistent, fast access to medical records.”

Read the Nanjing Children’s Hospital Case Study to learn more.

Silos Belong in the Scrapyard

Another hospital that has benefited from centralized storage is Tokushima University Hospital (TUH). As a university hospital responsible for providing health-care services to Japan’s Tokushima Prefecture, it has a legal requirement to store certain data and images for a period of time, meaning a greater need for long-term storage than a regular nonteaching hospital.

“Our Data volumes will continue to increase as we become more reliant on technology systems to support diagnosis and treatment,” says Ken’ichiro Shimai, Deputy Director, Medical IT Center, TUH. “New CT and MRI modalities mean huge volumes of image data, added to the images already produced by the cardiovascular, endoscopy, ultrasound, and surgery departments. There volumes of data are growing year-on-year.”

TUH’s IT infrastructure initially comprised between 70 to 100 silo systems, which made it difficult to access patient records easily.

Consider a car chase in Mad Max, and how the protagonists urgently need to reach for a weapon to shake the villains off their tail, but have no idea which car compartment it is in. Information, in the medical context, is a powerful weapon. The ease of accessing it greatly increases the chances of a patient’s survival.

After implementing a similar EMC Isilon X200 storage system, TUH has successfully moved away from its silo-based data systems onto one of centralized management and control, enabling all medical data to be digitized and stored centrally. This ensures patient records remain immediately accessible to medical personnel to assist them in prescribing the most appropriate treatment.

Read the Tokushima University Hospital to learn more.

Backup to the Future

In an article by Financial Times, it discusses how the ability to monitor health indicators constantly – through devices such as wearables – rather than periodically during check-ups can be considered new medicine. These constant data flows may yield insights that force physicians to rethink the way they treat their patients. It’s safe to say that the storage and interpretation of medical data will play an increasingly vital role over the next few years.



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