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October 24, 2005

UCSC and Los Alamos National Laboratory to form partnership for scientific data management

By Tim Stephens

UCSC and Los Alamos National Laboratory have agreed to establish a new collaborative institute for research and education in the area of scientific data management.

The Institute for Scalable Scientific Data Management (ISSDM) will address looming issues of data storage and management for projects that involve large-scale simulation and computing.

"This new partnership builds on a history of fruitful scientific collaboration between UCSC faculty and students and Los Alamos scientists. The educational and research programs supported by the institute will benefit both partners while addressing major challenges in scientific computing," said UCSC Chancellor Denice D. Denton.

The institute will provide opportunities for UCSC graduate students to gain specialized experience and expertise in this area by working on large-scale computing projects at Los Alamos. In addition, the students who take advantage of these opportunities will provide a pool of potential employees for the laboratory with skills in key areas of computer science and data management where the lab foresees significant staff needs in the future.

"We want to be able to hire people who already understand our problems and can come in and be immediately productive. This partnership will provide a valuable pipeline for recruitment and retention of staff in a key area for the laboratory," said Gary Grider of the High Performance Computing Systems Integration Group at Los Alamos.

UCSC's Storage Systems Research Center (SSRC) is a leading center for data-management research, and the expertise of faculty in this area made UCSC an ideal choice for this partnership, said Grider, who will direct the institute at Los Alamos.

Increases in computational power are driving the need for improvements in scientific data management. When powerful supercomputers run large-scale simulations of complex physical processes, enormous amounts of data are generated every second. The challenge for computer scientists is how to manage and store such a massive influx of data, said Darrell Long, who holds the Kumar Malavalli Endowed Chair in Storage Systems Research at UCSC and will serve as the campus director of the new institute.

"The amount of data you may have to handle is on the scale of petabytes, or one quadrillion bytes. Doing data storage and data management for things that large is a real challenge," Long said.

The problem is much the same in the case of scientific experiments in which a large array of sensors are used to collect data, resulting in a flood of real-time data coming from the sensors. Grider said the institute will address aspects of data management related to both simulation data and real-time experimental data.

"We have challenges now with the vast amounts of simulation data we generate using the large computational platforms we have. And what we see on the horizon is an explosion of real-time experimental data coming from the engineering, manufacturing, and experimental side of the lab," Grider said Los Alamos has established similar institutes focusing on other disciplines in partnership with other UC campuses, including UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara. Los Alamos also has announced a partnership to form an advanced studies institute with three New Mexico universities.

At UCSC, the primary participants in the ISSDM will be faculty and students affiliated with the SSRC, one of the major research groups in the Baskin School of Engineering. Directed by Long, the SSRC is focused on improving the performance, security, and reliability of data-storage systems and software.

The educational component of the new institute will include specialized courses delivered at both Los Alamos and UCSC via a two-way Internet link. Los Alamos senior scientists will serve as adjunct professors, lecturers, and mentors in the program.

"This allows us to offer courses that wouldn't otherwise be possible. It enables students to learn about things that very few institutions have the resources to offer," Long said.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to support NNSA in its mission. Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, developing technical solutions to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and national security concerns.

 

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