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NOAO Annual Report FY 1999

Central Computer Services


The downtown Tucson computing facilities continue to evolve as older systems are replaced by newer, more cost-effective, and easier-to-maintain systems. In particular, the FreeBSD system that provides email and FTP service was upgraded in FY 1999, and the Sun that serves as the email hub for staff was upgraded to a faster machine. In addition, several older disk drives on various CCS systems failed during the year and were replaced by more reliable, and also larger, disks. Similarly, older laser printers were replaced by newer, more capable, printers. Though the installation of new desktop workstations, PCs, and X-terminals for scientists and engineers has slowed as saturation is approached, many desktop systems were upgraded to faster systems over the course of the year.

The network infrastructure in the downtown Tucson office building was upgraded during FY 1999 to provide Fast Ethernet connections to every scientist's desktop workstation (backed up by a Gigabit Ethernet backbone). The core of the downtown Tucson network was upgraded with the installation of an Extreme Networks Summit-48 Layer-3 Routing switch which replaced a number of PC-based routers used to segment the network. Further network upgrades with the goal of providing Fast Ethernet connection to every desktop in the building were begun in FY 1999.

Kitt Peak

During FY 1999 a great deal of effort was expended to prepare for Y2K, culminating in a mountain-wide test of Y2K readiness on August 26, 1999.

Also during FY 1999, the Sun system at the 4-m, which is used to supervise telescope systems such as 4MAPS, was upgraded. The Cisco routers on both ends of the Tucson to Kitt Peak T1 data link were replaced with new models. In addition, several workstations of the Mountain Programming Group were upgraded to Sun Ultra-5 systems.

Finally, a grant proposal was submitted to the NSF Advanced Networking Infrastructure program to fund a DS-3 (45 Mbps) data line from Tucson to Kitt Peak. This proposal was successful, and efforts to implement the high-speed line will begin in early FY 2000 with an upgrade in the mountain network from 10 Mbps Ethernet to 100 Mbps Ethernet.

CTIO - Cerro Tololo

The CTIO mountain network consists of the data acquisition and reduction computers located in the various domes, one or more of which are used by all visiting observers, and a number of ancillary machines employed by support staff.

CTIO's current optical (Arcon) and IR (Wildfire) detector controllers use S-Bus host interface boards. However, Sun Microsystems has switched from the S-Bus to the PCI bus for their new generation of workstations. To prolong the usable lifetimes of our existing S-Bus based data acquisition machines, in FY 1999 we upgraded them with CPUs and additional memory in order to keep these machines running for the remaining useful life (envisioned to be five years) of these detector systems. End of FY 1999 funds were used to complete these upgrades with new monitors to replace the fading ones currently in use.

While these upgrades will allow continued use of these machines for data acquisition, their usefulness as data reduction and analysis machines is limited. In order to address the data reduction and analysis needs of visiting astronomers, more capable (and freely upgradable) companion machines, Sun Ultra-10/300s each with 128MB of memory and more than 20GB of disk storage, were installed in 1999 at the 1.5-m, 0.9-m, and Schmidt telescopes. A more powerful Sun Ultra-2/2200 was installed in the Blanco 4.0-m in 1998 to serve the same purpose.

Even more powerful computers are becoming necessary to handle the large volume of data generated by the recently installed NOAO 8K x 8K Mosaic-II imager. As part of the data acquisition and quick analysis equipment to support Mosaic-II, a Sun Ultra 60/2360 with 1GB of memory and more than 80GB of disk space was installed at the 4.0-m. In addition, DLT, DDS-4 DAT, and high-density Exabyte tape drives were purchased to provide visiting astronomers with the ability to archive their data for transport to their home institutions. On-site archival of data is performed by a dedicated ``Save-the-Bits" computer, an upgraded Sun SPARC-5 with 8 Exabyte drives which records all Mosaic images to tape for backup, and an eventual publicly available archive.

CTIO - La Serena

The computer facilities in the La Serena offices serve the needs of diverse groups---visiting astronomers, the resident scientific staff, the engineers of the CTIO ETS, and the secretarial and administrative staff. During FY 1999, two additional high-end Pentium-II PCs were purchased as Linux workstations. These join the two bought at the end of FY 1998 and continue the movement toward replacing traditional (and relatively expensive) Sun workstations with PC/Linux workstations when upgrades and new machines are needed. Two lower-end PCs were purchased as public Linux workstations for use by both visiting astronomers and visiting students. During the summer student program, the students have privileged access to these machines. Three additional Linux PCs were purchased to replace the Sun workstations which were damaged in a severe lightning storm in March.

End of FY 1999 funds have been allocated to purchase one additional high-end Linux PC to function as a server and central data analysis machine for Mosaic-II data reduction, since none of the current public workstations are up to this challenge. Additional hard disks (150GB) and tape drives (DLT and DDS-4 drives) have also been ordered to support Mosaic-II data reduction by both visiting astronomers and staff scientists.

CTIO - Communications

In late FY 1998 and FY 1999, the network infrastructure both on Cerro Tololo and in La Serena was completely replaced with switched Ethernet hardware which supports both fast (newer) and slow (older) network connections (100Mbs and 10Mbs). These changes to switched network hardware not only provide for additional network bandwidth, but also for additional security, making it more difficult for computer hackers to collect information on our network. Additional FY 1999 funds were used to replace and repair network equipment damaged in the severe storm of March 1999.

Late in FY 1999, CTIO switched its external Internet service from a slow satellite link provided by NASA to a 256Kbps channel rented from Entel, a Chilean Internet service provider. The FY 2000 cost of this link will be approximately $25K. Gemini has agreed to finance the cost of upgrading it to 512Kbps. At the present time, this is the highest speed realistically available in Chile. The relatively high cost compared to that of similar channels in the States is due to the fact that in Chile expensive satellite connections are still used for most communications with the US.

Although the new Internet link is greatly superior to the one it replaced, even 512Kbps is still inadequate for the needs of Cerro Tololo and will be even less so when Gemini South is fully functional.

ENTEL and others currently provide connections within Chile via high-quality, high-speed fiber links. The first west coast fiber cables arrived in Chile in early 1999. The connections to the Chilean domestic fibers are expected to be functioning routinely by late 1999. More fiber links are being installed. Since fiber connections are intrinsically much cheaper than satellites, as the new links come on line, we expect networking costs in Chile to fall by a factor of two or more per year for a number of years. In theory, the best ideal international connection in the long run will be via REUNA2, the Chilean arm of Internet2; currently ENTEL, a commercial vendor, offers the most cost effective solution.

Currently, a commercial microwave system provides communications at 2Mbps between La Serena and Cerro Tololo. A CTIO-installed link offers the same bandwidth between Tololo and Pachón. Approximately $150K of end of FY 1999 funds have also been allocated to provide matching funds for a fast network link between La Serena and Cerro Tololo. This network upgrade is a joint project between CTIO and Gemini, funded with matching funds from the NSF, to provide a OC-3 link (155Mbps) to both Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón (Gemini). This connection is expected to be fast enough to satisfy the internal needs of both CTIO and Gemini for at least a decade; once it is installed, the joint observatories will have seamless international connections up to OC-3 speeds.

NSO - Sunspot

In FY 1999, one 8-port Extreme Systems Summit-1 1000BASE switch was purchased and installed in the Main Lab. This is the NSO/SP gigabit backbone switch. Two 48-port Extreme Systems Summit-48 10/100BASE Ethernet switches were purchased and installed in the Main Lab and the Dunn Solar Telescope buildings. Four 24-port Extreme Systems Summit 24 10/100BASE Ethernet switches were purchased and installed in the Evans Solar Facility, The Hill Top Facility, Electronic Lab building, and the Main Lab. In addition, six Ultra-5 workstations were purchased. These workstations were placed in public locations and used mainly by summer students during the past summer REU program. Once the REU program is over, we move these workstations to staff offices to upgrade staff workstations.

The new NSO/SP network provides a gigabit backbone to all our major buildings and will provide a gigabit connection to our NFS servers. The network also provides, or will provide in the very near future, 10/100BASE network connection to all offices. A majority of the upgrade network wiring has been completed. The remainder should be completed in the next three to six months as budget and time permit.

We plan to purchase two gigabit NIC cards for our NFS servers in FY 2000.

NSO - Tucson

During FY 1999, the GONG and NSO-Tucson web servers and data archiving systems were integrated onto a single physical machine, Argo, which was upgraded with 40 GB additional disk space. Additionally, high-end PCs and Sun Ultra-10 workstations were purchased for scientific staff.

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