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Nobeyama Radio Observatory provides the environment for the analysis and sharing of observation data collected by the 45 meter telescope, the world's largest size in radio telescopes. By adopting Linux, which had become popular in the associated universities and institutions, the observatory was able to decrease costs by approximately 20 percent.
This case study was first published in Japanese on October 14, 2009
"From the point of view of system sharing, our mandatory requirements for the new system were accessibility to the vast volumes of observation data and the stable service of image data processing even during the peak observatory season."
A division of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Nobeyama Radio Observatory provides the environment for analysis of data collected by one of the world's largest (45 m) radio telescopes. It specializes in the short millimeter wavelengths. This enables discoveries in the fields of super-massive black holes, as well as covering a wide-range of research fields including: the formation of stars and planetary systems, the structure and activity of galaxies, plus a number of interstellar molecules and interstellar chemistry.
In order to provide an environment which would be more convenient for research, the observatory decided to use Linux, popular in universities and institutions. In addition they also changed their large-scale image processing system from a UNIX platform to Linux on PRIMERGY server platforms. This improved the processing efficiency. Their existing tape based data archive was also moved to an ETERNUS2000 disk array device. This guaranteed the accessibility and integrity of their enormous library of observation data. Furthermore, by adopting OSS middleware for their Internet platform (Web, mail, DNS, etc.) they reduced the installation cost by approximately 20 percent. The new system environment is now delivering a range of benefits to university researchers.
The National Astronomical Observatory's Nobeyama Radio Observatory (NRO), is a world-leading international radio astronomy research center with radio astronomy observation devices, including a 45 meter radio telescope, sub-millimeter wave telescope ASTE and millimeter interferometer. It also focuses on the development of technology for advanced observation methods, such as On-The-Fly (OTF) which enable and lead to key results. Internationally NRO plays an important role as a radio astronomy base in East Asia constructing the huge "ALMA" telescope in Chile, which will begin operation in 2012.
Ryohei Kawabe, professor of the NRO comments, "Our observation data is not only for internal use, we release the data to outside [users]. As a base for the sharing system for radio astronomy, the provision of observation data and an analytical environment are our important roles." The NRO also supports external research activities including remote connection to its analysis system from universities and the free distribution of the analytical software, NEWSTAR. In recent years, the NRO began to realize that their current systems had reached their limit in processing the enormous volumes of observation data like OTF. In addition, recognizing the Linux trend in universities and institutions, NRO decided to adopt a Linux environment for the sharing system at the same time they replaced the hardware for the radio telescope computer systems.
Dr. Takano, in charge of computing equipment, looks back to the system requirements of that time, "From fall through the spring, there are a lot of visitors from home and abroad. Then access to the system increases from overseas as well as domestically. A stable image processing service and improved accessibility to the observation data were our top requirement priorities".
Taking NRO's requirements and transition of the enormous observation data archive and know-how into consideration, Fujitsu suggested a total migration from UNIX to Linux on PRIMERGY. In addition, adopting OSS for the Internet platforms such as Web, Mail, DNS, etc, would reduce the overall installation costs by approximately 20 per cent. Takano says, "The proposition of cost savings by the adoption of PRIMERGY and Linux/OSS was agreeable. It enabled a portion of the budget to divert to research expenditure. Moreover the energy and space saving reality was also appreciated."
In the radio telescope computer systems at NRO, the 45 meter radio telescope observation control system was based on a UNIX environment. This large-scale image processing system and the central data processing system were extensively migrated to the latest editions of Linux on PRIMERGY. In addition, as the old system was only able to store observation data on tape; which caused read problems from tape deteriorated, the new system adopted an ETERNUS2000 disk array device with RAID5. This improved data availability and its fast data access. The new system also implemented the backup software NetVault and a tape device, ETERNUS LT250. These guaranteed data maintainability and operational efficiency. The utility servers supporting the common use environment, such as Web (Apache, Tomcat), mail (Postfix), LDAP (OpenLDAP), DNS (Bind), and external connections (OpenSSH) use OSS middleware and contributed greatly to the overall cost reduction
NRO took charge of the transition of the enormous observation data archive for the platform migration project including the core system. They reduced the migration period by pre-copying the data from the tape device on the previous system's tape unit onto work disks on an ETERNUS4000. This substantially shorten the transition. In addition in-depth coordination with the cooperating institutes encouraged a smooth operation. This included explanations of the migration plan and the answering of inquiries.
Now over a year since the migration in July 2008, the system is operating stably and the resulting performance improvement with large-scale image data processing has contributed to changes in research activity. Yasusi Oshima, in charge of NRO computer equipment, appraises the improvement in system performance. "Some of the high-level analyses have been processed in just one tenth of the previous times. It enabled the application of more analytical patterns in each limited time slot, and led to deeper consideration of the research. "In addition, when talking about the consolidation of research data, previously dispersed in separate laboratory workstations, onto a user volume on ETERNUS NR1000F, he comments "The data can be retained on the shared disk and there is no need for each researcher to take an offline backup. As the observation data is our most important asset, it is very important to save it in a prepared reliable location. While the quantity of OTF data acquisition has swollen by nearly 100 times, ETERNUS guarantees its accessibility and maintainability.
NRO has been proceeding with the development of new observation technology and devices. Ryohei Kawabe comments on the challenges in achieving new discoveries. "High performance computers become more and more necessary for superimposing the enormous amounts of data, output serially by radiant energy detecting bolometer cameras, and creating the high-definition images, without noise or distortion from atmospheric effects. Currently, we are jointly developing a large bolometer camera and when it is complete perhaps we can use it to find substances that are not here on earth."
"But, there is another challenge we need to tackle," Kawabe continues. "That is to provide observation data that can be used by the public as well as researchers. This system migration has improved the infrastructure for the researcher, but it is not yet suitable for public use by those interested in the cosmos. In the near future, we must tackle this issue too. Therefore, we would like to work with Fujitsu not only to develop the computer systems that will enable new discoveries, but we expect also they propose the data integration, modification and data provisioning know-how from the user point-of-view."
In order to connect NRO observation and research, day and night, with amateur astronomers worldwide, Fujitsu will keep providing services and advanced IT technology the customer's viewpoint, and support the research activities of the NRO.
Nobeyama Radio Observatory, a division of National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
Minamimaki, Minamisaku, Nagano, 384-1305, JAPAN
Website : National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
Information in this case study, including figures, names and job titles are based on information supplied at the published date and may have changed when this information is viewed.
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