One of the measuring stations on the PETRA III particle accelerator at DESY

IBM develops Big Data system for particle accelerator

IBM will help speed up management and storage of massive volumes of X-ray data produced by a super microscope in Germany.

The 2.7km long PETRA III accelerator run by Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) speeds up electrically charged particles to close to the speed of light before sending them through a tight magnetic slalom course to generate the most brilliant x-ray radiation of its kind.

Known as synchrotron radiation, the beams produced by the facility are used by more than 2,000 scientists each year to examine the internal structure of materials at atomic resolution – enabling them to better understand the workings of novel semiconductors, catalysts, biological cells and other nano-materials.

The high-speed snapshots taken by facility’s detectors produce huge volumes of X-ray data and so DESY has teamed up with IBM who will provide a big data storage and analytics architecture based on the US firm’s Elastic Storage technology, which can handle more than 20 gigabyte per second of data at peak performance.

“A typical detector generates a data stream of about 5 gigabytes per second, which is about one CD-ROM of data per second," said Dr. Volker Gülzow, head of DESY IT. "For PETRA III, we are currently expanding from 15 detectors to 25 and each detector could end up generating more than 20 gigabytes of data per second. Current storage options simply would not be able to provide the necessary quick access to the most accurate data for our scientists."

IBM’s software designed Elastic Storage is based on its General Parallel File System, which the firm claims can combines flash, disk and tape storage to manage up to a yottabyte – one trillion terabytes – of information.

The architecture will allow high-speed access to research data from anywhere in the world, which IBM says, will allow DESY to offer analysis services and cloud solutions to its users worldwide.

“IBM’s software defined storage technologies can provide DESY the scalability, speed and agility it requires to morph into a real-time analytics service provider.” said Jamie Thomas, general manager for storage and software defined systems at IBM.

“IBM can take the experience gained at DESY and transfer it to other fields of data intensive science such as astronomy, climate research and geophysics and design storage architectures for the analysis of data generated by distributed detectors and sensors.”

IBM Elastic Storage will also support DESY and a number of international partners that are currently building a new X-ray laser named European XFEL, a research light source that will generate about 100 Petabyte per year – comparable to the data produced by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, the world's largest particle accelerator.

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