Miller Castings decided they needed a better system to organize and manage the digital archive while also reducing the cost of storage. See how the company unified their data access and improved their end user workflows with the Enterprise File Fabric.
Miller Castings has manufactured investment castings for use in aerospace, military, and commercial sectors since 1972. Many of these components are used in high stress environments where they are exposed to extreme forces and temperatures – such as jet engines. Any flaws in the manufacturing process must be identified and segregated before delivery to their customers.
To identify latent defects, a process known as nondestructive testing is employed. Each part is x-rayed from various angles. Images are thoroughly examined before being approved for delivery to customers. After the parts are shipped, these digital x-ray images are archived for a mandated period.
The archives are very rarely accessed, typically only when there has been a system failure. In this event the original digital x-ray images must be quickly located and retrieved. Due to the criticality of this process, a single version of the archive is not sufficient. Miller Castings maintains a backup archive in case there is a problem with the primary archive.
The equipment used to take the x-rays was designed for the medical industry and modified for ultrahigh resolution. The resulting files use the standard medical industry DICOM format and are large – on the order of 120MB per image – plus a couple metadata files.
Miller had been storing archive copies on a local Windows file server which synced the files up to Azure Files cloud storage. Another set of scripts would move the files out of Azure Files onto Azure BLOB storage. Then, a custom application using Azure search allowed users to download archives if needed. This was a clunky manual process which required daily IT support.
USE CASE AND SOLUTION
The company decided they needed a better system to organize and manage the digital archive while also reducing the cost of storage. Phil Nayebi, IT Director, defined the requirements for the new system to include the following:
- A better way to organize, search, and locate archive files
- Automated tiering of backup archives to cloud storage
- More reliable storage on-premises
- Much lower cost cloud storage
Miller decided to implement the Enterprise File Fabric to manage access to the digital archives along with Cloudian HyperStore® for on-premises object storage. The x-ray applications write data to Cloudian®. Tiering policies on Cloudian® automatically backup data to Wasabi cloud storage – a much lower cost cloud storage than Azure.
Where in the past archiving the digital x-ray libraries was a manual process requiring daily IT attention, the new process is entirely automated. The primary archives are on-premises which simplifies user access and management. Cloudian HyperStore® is deployed across five separate nodes in a high-availability configuration. It provides increased reliability and availability. Any two nodes or two drives can fail with no loss of data, to quote Phil Nayebi: “it just works.”
His team now has single pane of glass access to both Cloudian and Wasabi using the File Fabric. Users quickly and easily enter search parameters to find needed archives. The File Fabric indexes both the file names (with embedded metadata) along with the content of the XML files for additional search parameters when needed. This speeds and simplifies archive retrieval.
The File Fabric provides both client-based (Windows Explorer and Mac Finder) and web-based access to files. The Miller team uses the web UI because it provides access to complex search parameters as well as online file previews without the need for downloads. Users can preview the x-ray files because they use a standard DICOM format used for medical applications. According to Phil, “the users love the ability to search for and preview files.”
When customers requested copies of archives in the past, users had to copy downloaded archive files to a separate portal to facilitate customer access. This was an additional unproductive step. With the File Fabric, Miller staff now just sends a link directly to the file or folder on Cloudian (or Wasabi) for the customer to download. Now all the data is on Miller’s primary systems, not a separate tool.
The new environment provides enhanced security. Users continue to use their existing active directory credentials secured with two-factor authentication (2FA). Users do not have to memorize a separate set of credentials. Further, the File Fabric provides a consolidated audit trail of all data access, whether from Cloudian or Wasabi, and for both Miller staff and customers accessing archives via shared links.
Phil looks forward to leveraging other capabilities in the File Fabric. The next feature he plans to implement is the Microsoft Teams integration. Teams collaboration normally requires files to be located in Microsoft SharePoint or OneDrive. In contrast, the File Fabric allows collaborative access to any files regardless of location, Cloudian, Wasabi, NAS or Windows server, from inside of the Teams application.
Phil says “the combination of the Enterprise File Fabric and Cloudian HyperStore® automated and streamlined the process to archive our digital x-ray library while providing quick and easy access for our users. Our archives are now on-premises which makes life easier for IT, and we have reduced our costs by moving our backup archives from Azure to Wasabi.”
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