European XFEL: The data challenge
Installation of graphics processing unit boards at a test system being constructed in the DESY computer centre.
Image courtesy of European XFEL
The X-ray laser facility European XFEL will produce an incredible amount of data – all of which needs to be stored and made available for analysis. Its instruments will generate 10 million gigabytes of data per year for the first few years, increasing to more than 50 million gigabytes per year as a result of detector upgrades. To picture the storage of 50 million gigabytes of data, imagine 10 million DVDs stacked on top of one another – they would reach 12 kilometres high.
“The extremely large data volumes generated at X-ray free-electron lasers require a new way of thinking about how data is managed and analysed,” says Christopher Youngman, leader of the European XFEL group ‘Data Acquisition and Controls’. At the European XFEL, data will be stored securely in a large disk system, exploiting technologies similar to those used by companies such as Google. To provide enough computer power when the X-ray laser facility becomes operational, the group has begun to look into capabilities of processors used in graphic cards to do calculations.
European XFEL is a research facility currently under construction in the Hamburg area in Germany. It will generate extremely intense X-ray flashes for use by researchers from all over the world.
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