Hormel Institute

Hormel Institute UMN preserves cancer research data and breakthrough findings with Spectra Logic Solution

Spectra BlackPearl and T950 Tape Library


The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota (UMN) is a leading cancer research department of UMN and part of the Masonic Cancer Center, an NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Started in 1942, the Hormel Institute has a seven-decade history of making significant scientific discoveries aimed at improving the health of the world. Its highly successful research scientists are focused on accelerating answers to cancer by determining the basic molecular mechanisms of cancer development and finding better ways to prevent, detect and treat the disease.

We have to store a lot of data for long periods of time. A single microscope can capture 10TB of data in as little as a few hours, and a published breakthrough on cancer research can take anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades. The BlackPearl and tape solution from Spectra provides a scalable and cost-effective way to store multiple data workflows with varying retention requirements.

— Jeffrey McDonald, director of IT, Hormel Institute at University of Minnesota

The Challenge

Research efforts at the Hormel Institute generate over half a petabyte of data per year via two primary avenues: cryoelectron microscopy and bioinformatics research. Cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is a technique applied on samples cooled to cryogenic temperatures to determine biomolecular structures at near-atomic resolution. Hormel is home to one of the few cryo-EM microscopes that are active in the United States (and the only one in Minnesota). Given the volume of data produced by their cryo-EM microscope, Hormel can generate up to 10TB of data per day.

The Solution

The Hormel Institute chose to implement a two-tier workflow with storage technology from Spectra Logic, deploying a BlackPearl Hybrid Storage Platform with 10 8TB HDDs and a Spectra T950 Tape Library with four LTO-8 tape drives. The object-based BlackPearl platform provides a single portal to multiple storage targets in a Perpetual Tier of storage. The Perpetual Tier complements the organi­zation’s existing Primary Tier of storage and provides lower-cost storage options, including public/private cloud, NAS, object storage disk and tape. The implementation allows Hormel to effectively balance access, cost and long-term preservation objectives. The combination of BlackPearl and tape delivers a highly-scalable, cost-effective architecture that supports the Hormel Institute’s high-impact research.

Environment Snapshot

  • Spectra® BlackPearl Hybrid Storage Platform with 10 8TB HDDs
  • Spectra® T950 Tape Library
  • Four LTO-8 tape drives
  • SpectraVision camera
  • BlueScale® software with standard encryption
  • Globus data management software
  • Java CLI

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