Data management and storage at the CNI

May 31st, 2016
May 31st, 2016

In planning the CNI environment, we made a risky decision: We committed to providing the community with data management services. Many of you know that most MRI centers do no more than hand the user a DVD at the end of the session, and wish them well. Or perhaps they allow the user to copy the data from the center to their lab over the Internet.  CNI users are supported much more extensively.

Data acquired on our scanner are immediately transferred from the GE system to the Neurobiological Image Management System (NIMS), a database. As they are placed in the database, the MRI data are converted into the formats (such as NIfTI) that most of our community uses.  These are the data that you typically download from a browser.

The full set of MRI data are kept online, backed-up, and available forever. The data are stored in an organized format that your collaborators can appreciate and understand. You can search through the entire database to discover what is there. You can perform simple visualizations and check image quality of your own data. The NIMS software you are using was designed and implemented by Bob Dougherty, Gunnar Schaefer and Reno Bowen.

In its 5th year of operation, the CNI has accumulated a great deal of data.  We are storing the work of about 700 people (trained by Laima). The data comprise more than 11,000 sessions and more than 6,000 subjects. There are more than 45,000 fMRI scans, nearly 10,000 anatomical scans, 5000 diffusion scans and 500 spectroscopy scans. You can search through the system and request access to scans carried out by other labs. Nobody is forced to share their data; but if you would like to share with another scientist, and your IRB permits it, then you can do so with a few clicks.

Over the years there have been a series of updates to the system to accommodate the growing data set.  There have been several hardware upgrades over the last few years, including both increased storage and increased computational power. The CNI data management system now includes a 200 Terabyte main file server with 200TB of off-site backup storage, three compute servers with a total of 80 cores, 1.9 TB of RAM, and 14 TB of fast SSD scratch storage, and a powerful web server, all interconnected by a 10 Gigabit network. The NIMS hardware and software are being maintained by Michael Perry and Bob.

Over the last three years a number of us (Gunnar Schaefer, Michael Perry, Bob Dougherty, Renzo Frigato) have been supported by the Simons Foundation to design the next generation of this software.  This work has also been supported by and integrated with the work being done by Russ Poldrack and Chris Filo, supported by the Arnold Foundation.  The next generation of software has many new features, and we will start to tell the story of the next generation of data management software during the coming months.


Posted in: CNI History, Computing, NIMS


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