Interior turns to attached storage to eliminate data shuffle

Interior turns to attached storage to eliminate data shuffle

High-capacity system will ease bottleneck created by memory-intensive geophysics computations

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

A high-capacity data storage system prevents Minerals Management Service geophysicists from hogging the Interior Department's computer resources.

Geophysicists with the service, which manages the nation's natural gas, oil and mineral resources on the continental shelf beyond coastal waters, work with files that can reach 100G, said Mark Zimmer, a consultant with Affiliated Computer Services' government solutions group of Rockville, Md.


Interior's Minerals Management Service has turned to a data storage system
to manage large files.


At the New Orleans office where Zimmer works, geophysicists analyze geological, geophysical and other petroleum-related data.

Among the office's responsibilities are periodically assessing the nature and extent of natural gas and oil resources and estimating current discovered natural gas and oil reserves by field. It also determines the fair market value for tracts offered for lease and makes sure offshore operators on drilling and production facilities in federal waters maintain safe practices.

But too much information and too little technological power caused a bottleneck.

Users had been moving the large files between their systems and local or slower servers on 8-mm tape, sometimes taking up to two days to load new information, Zimmer said. The information was typically stored on one or two RAID arrays ranging up to 20G in size, attached to the local workstations used for data interpretation, he said.

'You could only work on one project at a time,' he said. 'If you wanted to move on to another project, you had to archive the file you were working on and put it on tape. You are paying these geophysicists big bucks to do interpretation work. You aren't paying them for two days of work and three days of waiting for data to be loaded.'

Lots of slots

The service turned to NS7000 servers from Auspex Systems Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. Each of the three data servers the service bought has 209 SCSI slots that accept a variety of peripheral devices, Zimmer said. The machines, running Unix, were configured with five storage processors, a boot drive, a backup boot drive and a CD-ROM drive. In addition, the machine has five DLT 7000 tape slots and 201 disk slots per server, said Tom Garner, an Auspex spokesman.

The configuration left 201 slots in each of the three data servers for 4G, 9G and 18G hard drives, Gardner said; 9G and 18G drives give the service between 8T and 9T of data storage and take up most of the slots.

Each of the systems has five dedicated full-duplex 100Base-T links that are connected to an Acceler 1200 Layer 3 switch from Bay Networks Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., Zimmer said. Four of the interfaces deliver data to the clients while the fifth interface is dedicated to a data loading subnet, he said.

Users access the system on Sun Microsystems Ultra 60 workstations with 360-MHz UltraSparc II processors, 512M of RAM and 128M of memory. The Sun Ultras run SunSoft Solaris 2.6.

For interpretation, geophysicists use Geoframe Version 3.8, an umbrella package of seismic interpretation software, from Geoquest North America of Houston, Zimmer said. The package includes Finder Version 8.5, LogDB Version 4.0 and IESX Version 10.1, all of which are core programs for the service, he said.

In addition to easing the bottleneck, the move to the data storage system also solved the difficulty geophysicists had when more than one user needed to access data.

'The combination of the higher data transfer rates of the data server, a faster network and additional storage makes it possible to load data directly without taking a performance hit,' Zimmer said. 'Another advantage of the new system is that the 75 geoscientists can easily work together on the same data sets.'

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