Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Maria C. Horton

Related Topics: Agile Computing

Agile Computing: Blog Post

Petabyte Explosion: How CalTech Manages to Manage Billions of Files

How CalTech Manages to Manage Billions of Files

Managing billions of small files effectively requires a clear understanding of data flows and a system based on common Lego-like building blocks that provide services to application owners. This was the message at the September 29th, 2009 Peer Incite Research Meeting, where an industry practitioner, Eugene Hacopians, Senior Systems Engineer at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), addressed the Wikibon community.

Caltech is the academic home of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As such it runs the downlink for the Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA's orbital space telescope, as well as 13 other missions, processes the raw data into images, and supports the needs of scientists visiting from locations worldwide.

The focus of this discussion was the activities of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), which has evolved to become the national archive for infrared analysis from telescopic space missions. To be sure, Caltech’s needs are on the edge. The organization is the steward for more than 2.3 petabytes of data created from its 14 currently active missions. Caltech captures data from these missions and performs intense analysis in what it calls its ‘Sandbox’, a server and storage infrastructure that supports scientific applications that analyze the data. Once ‘crunched,’ the data is moved to an archive, using homegrown data movement software.

The team at Caltech had to design a cost-effective means of providing reliable data access to all this scientific data. As well, organizationally, the projects supported by Caltech had to be completely walled from each other from an accounting standpoint. Rather than implement a shared SAN infrastructure with onerous chargeback mechanisms, Caltech decided to use a common set of technologies that would support each of the projects.

The technological building blocks are: A Sun Solaris server running the ZFS file system, A QLogic 5602 FC switch, One-to-three Nexsan SATA Beast arrays. Caltech uses Nexsan’s Automaid spindown capabilities in its archive to reduce energy costs, using Level 1 (slowing the spin speed of the disk) and Level 2 (parking the heads after sufficient inactivity). It does not put the drives into sleep mode (Level 3) and has never had reliability problems associated with spinning down devices.

Caltech uses SAIC tape for long term archiving and last resort off-site disaster recovery. However, its own tests indicate that because of the huge number of small files involved, recovery from tape would take weeks or longer. This building block approach has allowed Caltech to use common configurations across its infrastructure.

Caltech derives four main benefits from this strategy:

  • 1.The infrastructure is architected for fast, simple, safe recovery from failure or data loss.
  • 2.The approach scales nicely in support of Caltech’s data growth, which occurs in large chunks of hundreds of TB’s and billions of tiles at a time.
  • 3.It streamlines staff training.
  • 4.The "Lego" building-block method allows Caltech to reuse infrastructure when it comes off maintenance, providing it with large numbers of spares and saving money.

Caltech uses a cascading refresh approach when new infrastructure is purchased, placing the newer equipment in support of the most critical parts of the infrastructure and migrating older equipment to less mission-critical areas. In this case, the archive is the most critical as it houses massive numbers of files that scientists access for their research and because it is regarded as a National Archive, which should be kept indefinitely. The Sandbox infrastructure is the least critical because data is quickly migrated off it into the archive.

Click here for the entire story:

More Stories By Joe Austin

Joe Austin is Vice President, Client Relations, at Ventana Public Relations. He joined Ventana PR in 2006 with more than 14 years experience in high-tech strategic communications. His media relations experience spans both broadcast and print, and he maintains longstanding relationships with editors and reporters at business, IT, channel, and vertical publications. Austin's relationship with the media includes marquee outlets including CNN, BusinessWeek, USA Today, Bloomberg, and the Associated Press for clients ranging from startups to billion-dollar enterprises. Experience includes working with Maxell, McDATA (Acquired by Brocade), Center for Internet Security, Securent (Acquired by Cisco), Intrepidus Group/PhishMe, FireEye, Mimosa Systems, Xiotech, MOLI.com, EMC/Rainfinity, Spinnaker Networks (Acquired by NetApp), ONStor, Nexsan, Asigra, Avamar (Acquired by EMC), BakBone Software, Dot Hill, SANRAD, Open-E and others. With more than a decade of strategic planning, media tours, press conferences, and media/analyst relations for companies in the data storage, security, server virtualization, IT outsourcing and networking arenas, Austin's domain expertise assists in positioning clients for leadership. Austin was recently recognized as a “Top Tech Communicator” for the second year in a row by PRSourceCode. The editorial community – represented by more than 300 participating IT journalists – rated each winner based on best overall performance and recognized those who added the most value to their editorial processes in terms of responsiveness, reliability, and overall understanding of editorial needs.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Moroccanoil®, the global leader in oil-infused beauty, is thrilled to announce the NEW Moroccanoil Color Depositing Masks, a collection of dual-benefit hair masks that deposit pure pigments while providing the treatment benefits of a deep conditioning mask. The collection consists of seven curated shades for commitment-free, beautifully-colored hair that looks and feels healthy.
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
We all love the many benefits of natural plant oils, used as a deap treatment before shampooing, at home or at the beach, but is there an all-in-one solution for everyday intensive nutrition and modern styling?I am passionate about the benefits of natural extracts with tried-and-tested results, which I have used to develop my own brand (lemon for its acid ph, wheat germ for its fortifying action…). I wanted a product which combined caring and styling effects, and which could be used after shampo...
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.