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National Ignition Facility Utilizes Oracle® Database 11g in Search for Nuclear Fusion


World’s Largest Laser to Produce Petabytes of Data and Images through Large Scale Experiments.

Redwood Shores.-The National Ignition Facility & Photon Science (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory uses Oracle Database 11g and its unique features for managing, storing and analyzing massive amounts of data and images resulting from the facility’s large scale experiments on thermonuclear fusion, Oracle announced today.
NIF is the world’s largest laser featuring 192 intense laser beams. When fully operational in 2009, NIF will direct nearly two million joules of ultraviolet laser energy in billionth-of-a-second pulses to the target chamber center. When that energy hits its millimeter-sized targets, it can generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees and pressure more than 100 billion times Earth’s atmosphere; conditions similar to those in the stars and the cores of giant planets or in nuclear weapons.
NIF’s laser beams will replicate the extreme conditions needed to achieve not only fusion ignition and burn, but also energy gain – two key milestones in the scientific pursuit of fusion energy as a source of electricity. If successful, NIF will be the first facility to demonstrate both phenomena in a laboratory setting.
Fusion, nuclear fission and solar energy (including biofuels) are the only energy sources capable of satisfying the Earth’s need for power for the next century and beyond without the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuels.
NIF relies on a foundation of Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Real Application Clusters, Oracle Automatic Storage Management, Oracle Clusterware, Oracle Partitioning, and Oracle SecureFiles running on a cluster of HP blade servers to help meet the stringent performance levels required to support its experiments as well as facility operations. NIF’s database stores and manages all of their data spanning large image files to experiment data to planning and budgeting data to operational information.
Oracle Database 11g supports NIF’s laser control system which allows NIF scientists to adjust the settings of the laser and target to their exact specifications prior to their experiments, and then captures the rush of data following the experiments. Thirty minutes following an experiment, the resulting large high-resolution images and data are stored in the database in their native formats using Oracle SecureFiles, and an initial analysis has been conducted to provide scientists with an overview of their experiment results.
With NIF’s experiments generating about 29-30 million rows of data daily and expected to generate about a petabyte of data per year, Oracle Partitioning is used to help scientists quickly query and analyze data stored in the database.
Following the initial analysis of their experiments, NIF scientists conduct subsequent analyses of their experimental data to help them understand what transpired and what actions to take in follow up experiments.
Oracle Data Guard is also used by NIF to backup their production database in the event of a disaster as well as for producing copies of production data to be accessed by ad hoc queries or tools.
Looking forward, NIF is considering the data mining and semantic Web capabilities of Oracle Database to help better understand the meaning of the data produced in their experiments as well as the relationship between all the data collected by NIF.
Supporting Quote
“A challenge we faced was managing the data following an experiment,” said Tim Frazier, Senior Software Architect, National Ignition Facility & Photon Science. “The data comes in so fast that we couldn’t keep up with it in the past. With the implementation of Oracle Database 11g and the use of the SecureFiles feature, we’ve experienced a dramatic performance increase in how fast we can ingest data that is generated when an experiment is run.”


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