Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences is an independent, nonprofit research organization dedicated to pursuing discovery at the leading edge of modern biomedicine. Led by an ambitious mission, Altius is dedicated to creating a new paradigm for catalyzing ground-breaking biological innovation, integrating molecular and computational science and engineering, and empowering fundamental technology development to radically accelerate the leap from basic to medical breakthroughs. While the physical plant for Altius is located in Seattle, its staff of 80 or so researchers and collaborators are located around the globe.

Sequencing and analysis generates enormous amounts of data that require complex algorithms. “It takes a lot of compute, a lot of storage, and a lot of complex data,” notes Cockrill. “The needle in the haystack cliché is always at work. You’re looking through millions, sometimes billions, of data points to find four base pairs that are out of order, or might be out of order.”

What our lab does is take tissue and we turn it into data. Everything the lab does is about looking inside the nucleus of cells and trying to understand what’s happening to molecules that are smaller than the wavelength of light.

Michael Cockrill
Chief Technology Officer at Altius


Legacy data protection tools too cumbersome and operationally intensive

Altius deals with a mix of structured data and two types of unstructured data: a small number of very big files (tens to hundreds of GB each) and a large number of small files associated with each of those datasets. Altius needed to address some of these challenges.

While Cockrill tackled the challenge of modernizing Altius’ IT infrastructure, he also confronted the looming problem of needing to evolve from replication to data protection using backup at scale. Ultimately, Altius’ original decision to not back up their data came down to dollars. “It’s not that we were ignorant of the value of the data; it’s just that we didn’t know which data was valuable.” In place of backups, Altius was mirroring about 400TB of data across the same NetApp filer—but this data was growing rapidly. Given the trajectory of Altius’ data growth, it was obvious to Cockrill that their replication strategy wouldn’t work for much longer.

As data growth continues, the costs of implementing a data protection solution began to pale in comparison to the risk of data loss. With the cost-benefit analysis now in favor of eliminating that risk, Cockrill decided to look for a solution. Running without backups was a business risk for Altius, and risk gets evaluated in economic terms just like any other rational evaluation.

“Putting all of your data in the same place is a fundamentally flawed strategy, in our case if the data gets lost, it is gone forever - you cannot recreate the data.

Michael Cockrill
Chief Technology Officer at Altius



Data protection and data movement as-a-service wherever data needs to live

As Cockrill evaluated his options, he realized he needed a solution that could back up all of Altius’ file and object data at scale and provide the option to tier to cloud, while also keeping his operational costs to a minimum.

The primary business objective for Cockrill in choosing NAS Cloud Direct is to obtain a hands-off integration for his data management and data distribution problem. “That means my team gets to focus their time on epigenetics -- on moving the body of science forward. There’s no value to anybody on my team understanding backup beyond ’I need that metadata over there’.”

“I think of NAS Cloud Direct through my own lens, which is I have a data management and distribution problem, and they act like a router that routes network traffic—but instead, they do it with petabytes of data,” notes Cockrill. “It’s programmable, it’s configurable, it can talk to a whole range of different endpoints, and that gives me all the flexibility I need to not get locked into any service provider, but also it allows me to be able to integrate with my down-the-line customers."

Api-enabled data movement and dataset collaboration

“While the use case of backup is important, it is not nearly as interesting as our next use case,” notes Cockrill. “I look forward to having our research partners be able to expose an S3 or SMB interface for me to push data from our NAS Cloud Direct system to them. I will have byte-level control of the data that leaves my data center and goes to theirs -- it will be guaranteed delivery, and it will just work.”

These data movement capabilities make NAS Cloud Direct exceptionally appealing to Cockrill, and he is confident that Altius has room to grow with Rubrik. “In the past, as the amount of data increased, it would require me to write a bigger check to address the issue. But now, because of NAS Cloud Direct, I don’t have to hire any more people, I don’t have to take on any more risk, and I don’t have to increase my management in any way.”

Cockrill feels lucky to be in a situation where the physical IT infrastructure he inherited was overbuilt enough that he had time to make choices.  “I think the other noticeable thing about doing business with Rubrik is it actually feels like a partnership. I didn’t feel like they were trying to sell me something. It felt like they were trying to understand what my business problem was, and they told me how they could solve it.” 20211008_v1 BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION Protecting and managing enormous datasets was an increasingly urgent problem for the Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, where 


NAS Cloud Direct was definitely the right solution at the right time.

Michael Cockrill
Chief Technology Officer at Altius

The Results

Benefits include:

Data mobility

"Moves data programmatically from the company data center to research partners via an S3 or SMB interface in order to improve the efficacy of new drug targeting and gene therapies."

Cost reduction

"Reduces costs by eliminating complexity and unnecessary administrative overhead, allowing teams to instead focus on moving genomic research forward."

Data security

"Provides a hands-off solution for both data protection and data movement needs today and in the future."


"Scalable in terms of capacity, performance, protocol, location, and clouds to support biomedical research goals for the foreseeable future."