November 12, 2008

NCAR Installs Massive HPC Digital Storage Library From Sun Microsystems for Climate and Weather Records

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ:JAVA) today announced the arrival of AMSTAR, a new digital storage library that will preserve and protect valuable scientific data for the next 15 to 20 years. The new system, designed by Sun Microsystems and based on the Sun StorageTek(TM) SL8500 Modular Library, will give NCAR five times its current storage capacity, enabling it to generate increasingly sophisticated computer studies of Earth's climate.

"We have a responsibility to science and to future generations of researchers," says Al Kellie, director of NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL). "Scientists are dedicating themselves to giving us a better understanding of our climate and our world, and we are dedicated to keeping their results safe and accessible."

NCAR's Mass Storage System (MSS), or data library, is one of the largest archives in the world dedicated to geoscience research. It holds historical international climate records that are irreplaceable, data from field experiments and observations, and information gathered from weather stations, ships, planes, and satellites.

But the bulk of NCAR's MSS data is generated by global climate simulations, weather models, and other Earth systems models that run on NCAR's supercomputers. Data archival demands continually grow as simulations become more sophisticated, and as atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, and land cover climate models are combined into increasingly detailed runs.

The new Sun StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library Systems will give NCAR up to 30 petabytes of storage capacity in addition to achieving higher speeds without increasing power requirements.

The capacity and design of the Sun Storage products will allow NCAR to connect the SL8500 Modular Library Systems to its MSS without having to rewrite any code. The system uses Sun StorageTek T10000B tape drives to store the data, with each tape capable of holding up to a terabyte (1,024 gigabytes) of data.

"Sun and NCAR have a relationship going back almost 20 years," said Jason Schaffer, Senior Director of Storage, Sun Microsystems. "When NCAR's storage needs jumped up 180 terabytes per month, we were pleased to win the competitive bidding by offering a Sun Storage product that could handle this increased capacity. We believe that the superior reliability and scalability of the SL8500, and world-recognized Service quality, made us the preferred choice."

NCAR's current MSS has reached its maximum capacity of six petabytes, less than six years after crossing the one-petabyte mark. A petabyte is the equivalent of 223,101 DVDs, or over 8,730 iPod Classics.

The assembly of AMSTAR's first two production libraries was completed last week. An additional library will be installed in 2010 to expand the AMSTAR system. Once the first two production libraries become operational in December, it will take approximately 18 months for NCAR to transfer all of the data from the current MSS tape archive to the new system, at a data transfer rate of about 140 megabytes per second. New data will be stored directly on the new system, as soon as testing is complete.

"We currently have over a thousand scientists around the world accessing this information for their research," said Tom Bettge, director of operations and services at CISL. "Ensuring that they can access and store the data easily, safely, and reliably is a task NCAR takes very seriously."

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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