Australian Plant Phenomics Facility rolls out new IT infrastructure

The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) has deployed a new IT infrastructure aimed at supporting its research into new varieties of food crops.

The APPF has partnered with IBM and services partner Datacom Systems to provide the IT to support the critical imaging application and databases for The Plant Accelerator, a plant screening facility at the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus.

The facility will run research programs aimed at increasing drought and salinity tolerance in wheat and barley and conduct research on other economically important crops such as grapevines.

The Plant Accelerator itself is composed of more than one kilometre of conveyor systems, automated high-throughput imaging stations and robotic equipment designed to provide continuous measurements of physical attributes, such as leaf colour, size and water content, of up to 2400 radio-tagged plants at any one time.

By linking 3-D images and data to record each of the plant's genetic make-up, researchers hope to accelerate the process of designing hardier plants which will in turn help address critical food shortages caused by climate change.

According to APPF IT manager Lachlan Tailby, the data-intensive nature of the APPF’s research required that it move to a dedicated storage and server infrastructure.

"We needed… a solution able to handle a plant being scanned from three angles to produce 3D images, every 30 seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as store and analyse the vast amounts of images generated," Tailby said in a statement.

The new server and storage infrastructure consists of an IBM BladeCenter holding HS22 and HS21 blades and a System Storage DS4700 with 140TB of initial storage capacity. With the Plant Accelerator expected to generate 60TB of imaging data annually, the system is expected to be upgraded to 300TB within two years.

The APPF will also look to equip its researchers with handheld PDAs equipped with scanners connected wirelessly to the IT infrastructure enabling direct access to the data being produced

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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