Live Long and Prosper: The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Lab

Sometimes to really grasp the impact of IT on our lives and business it helps to think about real scenarios. Let’s say – hypothetically, of course – you’re out in space trying to make your way back to Earth. Now imagine your navigation system goes completely dark and you have to put your return trip on hold for system downtime; even just 15 minutes of disruptions can have a major impact on what you’re trying to accomplish. Sure, the whole “traveling through space a la Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock” may seem a little out there but for organizations that depend on limited maintenance and system downtime, system availability is critical to their success...or in the case of Kirk and Spock, their return back to Earth.



Star Trek image courtesy of Paramount Studios.

So what exactly does outer space have to do with NetApp? Glad you asked.

As the set for scenes of the movie Star Trek Into Darkness and home to the world’s largest laser, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is one of America’s biggest science facilities — a tool to ensure national security, advance basic science and explore energy solutions. You might say eliminating planned downtime and optimizing access to scientific applications is just a little bit important for NIF. Okay, it’s more than that – it’s essential. That’s why they turned to NetApp to improve their operational efficiency and virtual storage availability.

The Challenge

The laser at the NIF research facility produces significant amounts of data researchers need to access and analyze 24/7. Using scheduled maintenance downtime in order to perform specific tasks (e.g. movement of data, reallocation of volumes, etc.), the IT team was straining the facility’s storage by virtualizing the majority of its Linux-based application servers with Oracle Virtual Machine (VM), resulting in latency in the test lab environment.

With scientists at NIF working on improving national security, conducting astrophysics research and developing renewable energy solutions, it was crucial for NetApp to deliver a solution that improves workload mobility, storage efficiency and management of storage technology.

The SolutionNIF.jpg

Using a multi-stage approach, NIF partnered with NetApp to address these issues and establish a global namespace for seamless workload mobility. The facility needed continuous availability for the large amounts of data processed by NIF scientists on a daily basis, requiring unified cluster architecture. By deploying NetApp FAS storage systems running clustered Data ONTAP, NIF was able to make the most of its storage space – a major necessity for a 24/7 research center.

NIF also faced performance issues with virtual machines. By launching the NetApp Flash Pool, the team was able to deploy automated storage tiering in the NetApp Virtual Storage Tier, helping NIF meet the input/output operational per second (IOPS) required to analyze data with its Oracle virtual machines. All of this resulted in NIF reaching more than 27,000 IOPS in the production storage environment and a 97% reduction in latency.

To meet budget requirements and improve facility efficiencies, the research facility was looking for a solution to streamline measurement and monitoring. Using the NetApp Storage System Plug-in for Oracle Enterprise Manager, NIF was able to implement a cloud-based server and storage environment allowing for multiple virtualized storage controllers. Now NIF employees can create multiple virtualized storage systems – all housed within a unified NetApp system – without sacrificing security or privacy.

The Result

The NetApp Flash Pool eliminates up to 60 hours of planned downtime annually, maximizing facility availability and leading to the acceleration of fusion. Reducing latency also gives scientists all over the world greater access to the data they’re collecting, while the increased storage availability enables researchers to analyze and monitor data without disruptions and with limited maintenance and system downtime.

By partnering with NetApp, NIF can rely on its IT infrastructure and allow for significant scientific breakthroughs. “Reclaiming up to five hours a month from planned downtime is worth a lot to us. That’s time we can give back to science,” explained NIF CIO Tim Frazier. “Big science is done by smart people, but our success also depends upon having strong partnerships with innovative and committed technology providers.”

Find out more about how NetApp helped deliver the right solution for the National Ignition Facility here.

Learn about other customer successes and visit the NetApp customer showcase page.



Yes. I also wish to live long & prosper:>)