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More room for data

NCAR quintuples its digital storage capacity

by David Hosansky and Marijke Unger

AMSTAR, NCAR's new digital storage library

AMSTAR, NCAR’s massive new digital storage library, will enable atmospheric scientists to conduct increasingly sophisticated computer studies. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

There’s no stopping the exponential growth of data generated by climate models, field studies, and routine observations. NCAR’s ability to house such data on behalf of the community is increasing fivefold over the next 18 months with the installation of a new digital storage facility.

Designed by Sun Microsystems and based on the Sun StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library, the new system is called AMSTAR, Augmentation of the Mass Storage Tape Archive Resources. It will hold up to 30 petabytes—equal to one million gigabytes, or the equivalent of 223,101 DVDs—while allowing higher upload and download speeds without increasing power requirements.

NCAR’s Mass Storage System (MSS) is one of the largest archives in the world dedicated to geoscience research. It includes irreplaceable climate records and field-project archives, but the bulk of the system’s holdings is data generated by the increasingly complex weather, climate, and Earth system models that run on NCAR’s supercomputers.

“We have over a thousand scientists around the world accessing this information for their research,” says Tom Bettge, director of operations and services at NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL). “Ensuring that they can access and store the data easily, safely, and reliably is a task NCAR takes very seriously.”

The capacity and design of the Sun Storage products will allow NCAR to incorporate AMSTAR into 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.

On the Web


Video of the new SL8500 library at work


The assembly of AMSTAR’s first two production librarieswas completed in November. 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 Mass Storage System tape archive to AMSTAR, at a 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 have a responsibility to science and to future generations of researchers,” says CISL director Al Kellie. “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.”

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