European agency solves digital mapping challenges with IBM

Providing internet-based digital mapping services to an entire nation

Published on 30-Mar-2013

"The IBM SONAS solution offers excellent scalability and elasticity. It took only a couple of weeks to implement and migrate the data from the previous solution, and the solution offered immediate improvements in the geoportal’s performance." - Agency spokesperson

A European agency


Business Resiliency, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server, Workload Management


This European country’s national agency for geodesy and cartography is responsible for collecting, evaluating and maintaining geodetic reference data, and making it available to the federal government, businesses and citizens.

Business need:
This country’s land registry and cartography service needed to meet an EU Directive for digital mapping enablement. With maps stored at each local office, retrieving data was costly and time-consuming.

Built an IT infrastructure based on IBM® Scale Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS), IBM System Storage® and IBM BladeCenter® technologies, enabling the storage and delivery of high-resolution mapping.

Provides internet access to high-resolution mapping, eliminating costly trips to local offices to obtain physical maps. Meets EU Directive requirements for improved information sharing and easier access to high-resolution imagery.

Case Study

This European country’s national agency for geodesy and cartography is responsible for collecting, evaluating and maintaining geodetic reference data, and making it available to the federal government, businesses and citizens.

The geodesy and cartography service is following the European Union INSPIRE Directive, aimed at creating a common spatial data infrastructure for EU Member states. This will enable the sharing of environmental spatial information among public sector organizations and harmonize access to geographical data.

Meeting a Europe-wide directive
Under INSPIRE, EU Member States must make their spatial information services understandable and accessible among tiers of government and across national boundaries. To comply with the directive, this country’s national geodesy and cartography service needed to enable internet-based digital mapping. The agency wanted to make detailed cartographic and photographic information available from any location, eliminate travel costs and reduce delays.

A spokesperson explains: “We wanted to build a portal to provide browser-based access to our mapping data. It soon became apparent that the aerial photographs, each of which was around 200 MB, would take too long to serve over standard internet connections as users zoomed in and out of the images. If the service was to be of practical use, we had to solve this challenge.”

The solution was to divide the original aerial photographs into tiles, at multiple different zoom levels. While this approach solved the immediate challenges around providing fast zooms into the images, it created a huge quantity of data—more than 2.5 TB of data in almost 150 million files—that produced new strains on the infrastructure design.

IBM creates a long-term, strategic solution
The agency invited tenders to create a solution that would meet the INSPIRE infrastructure requirements, deliver up-to-standard performance, and handle the very large image data volumes. IBM proposed a solution based on the IBM Scale Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) architecture, with IBM BladeCenter servers providing scalable application hosting services. Not only did the IBM proposal solve the data volume challenges, it also offered very high performance at low total investment cost, with the added bonus of long-term scalability.

After evaluating all tenders, the agency determined that the solution proposed by IBM was the best fit for the business’ needs, and chose to engage IBM as an implementation partner. Working with IBM Systems and Technology Group (STG) Lab Services, the agency deployed an end-to-end portal infrastructure, including four IBM BladeCenter H chassis housing a combination of different IBM BladeCenter servers, including the latest BladeCenter HX5 models, all running the VMware virtualization platform and the Microsoft Windows operating system.

The IBM BladeCenter HX5 servers feature fifth-generation IBM X-Architecture® technology. The servers offer enhanced MAX5 memory scalability for up to 640 GB memory in a double-wide blade, designed to provide optimal server utilization for large and workload-intensive operations.

The agency runs up to 200 virtual servers on the HX5 servers, providing the mapping, cartographic and geodesy information solutions, while the remaining blade servers provide database, administration and related services. An IBM System x® 3650 class server running the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system was installed as a backup server.

For data backup processes, the agency deployed an IBM System Storage TS3310 Tape Library, which supports rapid expansion as processing needs grow. An IBM System Storage TS7650 ProtecTIER® deduplication appliance helps protect data , while enabling significant infrastructure cost reductions.

Highly scalable storage architecture
IBM SONAS provides extreme scalability, ideally suited for handling the agency’s very large number of image files, high total data volume and thousands of separate, simultaneous requests for data. The solution contains advanced technologies for automated storage hierarchies, deduplication and protection, helping to reduce costs and increase performance. SONAS also increases information availability, helping to provide quicker and easier access to important data.

A spokesperson comments, “The IBM SONAS solution offers excellent scalability and elasticity. It took only a couple of weeks to implement and migrate the data from the previous solution, and the solution offered immediate improvements in the portal’s performance. We now see at least 400,000 unique visits a month, and on some days this can reach 30,000 visitors, searching for mapping information and images on a service that did not exist in any fashion previously.”

Planning for significant information growth
The agency expects to add more information resources to the portal, such as greater map and image detail, flood modeling applications, and data from other government agencies and utilities. The solution is forecasted to reach some 500 TB within two years, and may finally hold more than 1 PB of data.

A spokesperson concludes, “The portal meets the requirements of the EU Directive and delivers very high performance. The IBM SONAS and BladeCenter solution provides a service that simply did not exist even a few short months ago, and the IBM offering was at a lower investment cost and lower costs of operation than other vendors’ solutions.
“Our next step is to renew our mapping application, and the IBM solution is easily capable of handling the new application workload and growing user base. In short, we are very pleased with the IBM BladeCenter and SONAS solutions.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

BladeCenter HX5, Storage, Storage: Scale Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS), Storage: TS3310 Tape Library, Storage: TS7650 ProtecTIER Deduplication Appliance

Operating system:

Legal Information

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