Andreas Hirstius, manager of CERN Openlab and the CERN School of Computing, explains in November’s Physics World how computer scientists have risen to the challenge of dealing with this unprecedented volume of data.
When CERN staff first considered how they might deal with the large volume of data that the huge collider would produce when its two beams of protons collide, in the mid-1990s, a single gigabyte of disk space still cost a few hundred dollars and CERN’s total external connectivity was equivalent to just one of today’s broadband connections.
It quickly became clear that computing power at CERN, even taking Moore’s Law into account, would be significantly less than that required to analyse LHC data. The solution, it transpired during the 1990s, was to turn to "high-throughput computing" where the focus is not on shifting data as quickly as possible from A to B but rather from shifting as much information as possible between those two points.
High-performance computing is ideal for particle physics because the data produced in the millions of proton-proton collisions are all independent of one another - and can therefore be handled independently. So, rather than using a massive all-in-one mainframe supercomputer to analyse the results, the data can be sent to separate computers, all connected via a network.
From here sprung the LHC Grid. The Grid, which was officially inaugurated last month, is a tiered structure centred on CERN (Tier-0), which is connected by superfast fibre links to 11 Tier-1 centres at places like the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the UK and Fermilab in the US. More than one CD's worth of data (about 700 MB) can be sent down these fibres to each of the Tier-1 centres every second.
Tier 1 centres then feed down to another 250 regional Tier-2 centres that are in turn accessed by individual researchers through university computer clusters and desktops and laptops (Tier-3).
As Andreas Hirstius writes, “The LHC challenge presented to CERN’s computer scientists was as big as the challenges to its engineers and physicists. The computer scientists managed to develop a computing infrastructure that can handle huge amounts of data, thereby fulfilling all of the physicists’ requirements and in some cases even going beyond them.”
Also in this issue:
• President George W Bush’s science adviser, the physicist John H Marburger, asks whether Bush’s eight years in office have been good for science in the US.
• Brian Cox may be the media-friendly face of particle physics, but how does the former D:Ream pop star, now a Manchester University physics professor, find the time for both research and his outreach work?
• Beauty and the beast: in his 100th column for Physics World, Robert P Crease asks whether CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the biggest experiment of all time, can be dubbed “beautiful”.
Joe Winters | alfa
When AI and optoelectronics meet: Researchers take control of light properties
20.11.2018 | Institut national de la recherche scientifique - INRS
How to melt gold at room temperature
20.11.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy