World’s Largest Laser Runs on Clustered Data ONTAP

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is home to the world’s largest laser.  It’s over 100 times more energetic than any previous laser system. Scientists at the Livermore, California facility are working on improving national secu­rity and developing the science for providing renewable energy sources for the future. Because of NIF’s size and criticality of its research, avoiding downtime is critical. Each time the laser is fired at a target, nonrela­tional object data produced by scientific instruments (about 50TB per year) is captured in files on network-attached storage, which must be accessible 24/7 for physicists to analyze. Algorithms then generate representations of the x-rays, plasmas, and other scientific phenomena that are stored as relational data in Oracle databases.




NIF retired most of its legacy storage and deployed NetApp FAS3250 and FAS3220 storage systems running the clustered Data ONTAP operating sys­tem to provide nondisruptive operations. An eight-node NetApp cluster stores the virtual machine operating system images, while a four-node NetApp cluster stores scientific data in Hierarchical Data Format (HDF) to be ingested to Oracle SecureFiles. 800 Linux virtual machines connect to the NetApp NFS cluster over a 10GbE network.

NetApp Professional Services helped NIF migrate their data and decommission the older systems.  They performed the clustered Data ONTAP Migration Service, designed to help customers transition with minimal disruption.


NetApp’s unified scale-out architecture allowed NIF to maintain constant availability for very large amounts of data. NIF anticipates eliminating up to 60 hours of planned downtime annually, maximizing facility availability.  In addition, all of the NetApp storage systems can be managed as a single logical pool that can seamlessly scale to tens of petabytes and thou­sands of volumes. “Having a global namespace means we can move work­loads around without losing the NFS file providers, a huge win for a 24/7 research facility like NIF,” says Frazier. NetApp block-level deduplication helps NIF make the most of its storage space, reclaiming an average of 40% of capac­ity for data volumes and up to 80% for virtual machine images.

“Reclaiming up to five hours a month from planned downtime is worth a lot to us, our sponsors, and the country” Tim Frazier, CIO, National Ignition Facility and Photon Sciences Principal Associate Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


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Mike McNamara


Good job done Netapp. Concern here is having dedup of this much big data might cause issues with backup.