Storage to Support Seismic Data Growth

ION Geophysical’s GX Technology Imaging Solutions group is a pioneer in the growing full-service seismic industry. Oil and gas company customers rely on the company’s images and data to increase their odds of finding rich deposits when placing multi-million dollar bids on potential drilling parcels. 

As demand for its SRME processing services increased, GXT began to reach the limits of the performance of the NAS cluster dedicated to the application and storage architects knew they had to come up with a way to handle the increasing application workload. The processes used for noise reduction and data enhancement are extremely complex, compute- and storage-intensive operations that require very high-end computing systems. 

GXT’s High Performance Computing center in Houston includes petabytes of local NAS disk and is backed with a mass storage environment of petabytes of Fibre Channel disk capacity.


As demand for SRME processing increased, GXT began to max out the performance of the NAS cluster dedicated to the application and storage architects knew they had to come up with a way to handle an increasing application workload. In addition, SRME processing put such a high demand on the CPUs of the existing NAS cluster that no other applications could run on it simultaneously. 

GXT began to investigate potential solutions but was stymied with either the cost or technical limitations of the majority of the products under consideration. The company considered adding a second NAS cluster, but was deterred by both the acquisition cost as well as the increased operating costs for a solution that would only increase throughput in aggregate. The company also looked at adding Solid State Disk (SSD) adapters to the NAS cluster. With this option, the company would have to add an SSD card to each individual storage server within the cluster , eliminating the ability to use the SSD as a shared and scalable pool to deliver parallel performance for hot data. 


GXT found the solution to the problem of how best to scale its NAS architecture with Avere Systems’ FXT Series Scale-out NAS appliances, The Avere FXT Series provides performance acceleration for reads, writes, and metadata operations, enabling the best of both worlds: the performance of SSD at the cost of standard hard disk drives. 



GXT installed a six-node Avere cluster with each node running an Avere FXT 2700 appliance with 64GB of DRAM, 1GB of NVRAM and 512GB of SSD Flash. The Avere OS dynamically tiers data by intelligently and automatically moving it to the optimal storage tier based on parameters such as access type, access frequency and file size. It holds the most active data on the internal SSD media and demotes less active data to the NAS cluster. Allocation algorithms constantly monitor data access patterns and actively manage data placement between tiers to increase performance, distribute workload across the Avere cluster, and minimize accesses to the NAS cluster, eliminating the performance latency associated with disk-based NAS systems. By maintaining active data in SSD storage, the Avere cluster accelerates performance for GXT’s SRME application workload without the expense of an additional NAS cluster. 

The results of adding the Avere appliances were dramatic for GXT. The Avere-enhanced SRME architecture produced 250,000 random IOPS and a 50x throughput and operation offload of the pre-existing NFS infrastructure. Clients experienced a similar 50x reduction in latency for radically faster operational performance. Most significant was the impact on GXT’s application performance. Using the same compute cluster, GXT was able to support 30 concurrent SRME processing groups, 2.5x the work in the same time period with no changes to the processing infrastructure. In addition, the upgraded SRME processing capability removed the stress on the system CPUs, enabling other applications to run faster and unimpeded. 

Adding an Avere FXT Series Scale-out NAS cluster of appliances solved GXT’s application growth issues enabling the company to increase its throughput by more than 250 percent without any spending to upgrade its existing NAS cluster. By installing the Avere cluster, GXT has future-proofed its storage infrastructure against any potential performance bottlenecks. 

About Ion Geophysical

ION Geophysical is one of the world’s leading providers of geophysical technology services and solutions for the global oil and gas industry. ION’s offerings allow exploration and production operators to obtain higher resolution images of ocean subsurfaces to reduce the risk of exploration and reservoir development and enable seismic contactors to efficiently acquire higher quality geophysical data.