November 17, 2008 Analysis of the Earth’s climate relies on and generates a huge amount of data. No one knows this better than the folks at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), who have announced the arrival of AMSTAR, a new digital storage library that will preserve and protect 30 petabytes of valuable scientific data for the next 15 to 20 years. The new system, designed by Sun Microsystems, Inc. and based on the Sun StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library, will give NCAR five times its current storage capacity, enabling it to generate increasingly sophisticated computer studies of Earth’s climate.
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 (or 30,000 terabytes) 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 of data. NCAR’s current MSS reached its maximum capacity of six petabytes, less than six years after crossing the one-petabyte mark.
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.
With all the climate changes taking place thanks to global warming, there’s bound to be quite a bit of data worth storing.