$1.2M project speeds research data processing


By Paul Mayne
Thursday, October 29, 2009
A new high-speed network to handle large blocks of research data flowing at high rates - up to 10 terabytes per day - from synchrotrons in Canada and the U.S. is the latest project at Western’s SHARCNET (Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network).
Computer Science professor and SHARCNET associate director Mike Bauer, above, and Chemistry professor Stewart McIntyre have been awarded $1.2 million to create a high-speed processing network to support research. 

To be known as ANISE (Active Network for Information for Synchrotron Experiments), the project led by researchers Mike Bauer and Stewart McIntrye has received $1.2 million to take some of the waiting out of crunching huge amounts of research data.
The funding agency, CANARIE (Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network), manages an ultra high-speed network - hundreds of times faster than the internet – to support leading-edge research in Canada and internationally.
More than 39,000 researchers at nearly 200 Canadian universities and colleges use the CANARIE Network, as well as researchers at institutes, hospitals and government labs.
The Western project, the only one funded in Ontario, will create near real-time processing and enable users of Canada’s synchrotron in Saskatoon, Sask. as well as U.S. synchrotrons, to respond within minutes to experimental output.
Synchrotons generate beams of x-rays, light and particles and are used in research such as understanding the structure of crystals, cells and materials.
“Typically, each beam is at a specific intensity and there are a number of ‘detectors’ around the target,” says Bauer. “The detectors collect diverted x-rays/particles and the results are analyzed to ‘see’ the structure of the material.” 
The project, with has Western working with Canadian Light Source Inc., IBM Canada and IBM Research, should ensure more efficient use of labs by industrial and academic researchers around the world.
Previously, it took days before data could be analyzed.
“Those who benefit are potentially anyone who uses synchrotrons,” says Bauer. “They can get their data analyzed while the experiment is running and, with Science Studio, won't have to travel to Saskatoon - saving time and money and using these large scientific facilities more productively.”
Science Studio is a web portal providing remote access to synchrotron user office, beamline and data storage facilities.
Bauer adds the new network will alter the way synchrotrons are used - shifting from data gathering and storage to rapid processing and feedback.

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