CERN - Case study PDF Print E-mail
General news
Tuesday, 25 September 2007 11:22
Farnborough, UK, 25th September 2007DPS UK Limited today announced that CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the world's largest high-energy physics research establishment is using Tapewise Enterprise. Tapewise ensures the quality of data held on tape for the, Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is scheduled to start operating in 2008. The data generated during the multi-year LHC project is expected to dwarf every other scientific experiment in history, amounting to an incredible 15 petabytes a year.

When protons collide: CERN uses new Tapewise Enterprise to ensure tape media quality
The primary storage medium will be tape, in IBM 3584 and Sun StorageTek StreamLine tape libraries. Nothing else is remotely feasible as only tape has the capacity and cost that allows the data to be kept semi-online inside a library. It will require tens of thousands of tape cartridges and CERN must have confidence that the data, once written, can be read.

Tape error rates, though very low, will be a major consideration for CERN. Doctor Charles Curran is the Storage Consultant and physicist at CERN responsible for its tape storage operations. He said: "We are probably one of the biggest data holders in the world with our 8 petabytes of physics data. Because of the LHC project the number of tape cartridges we need will increase markedly. We face a whole series of problems - it could run away from us.”

"LHC experiments will generate data instantly and we are the bit bucket at the end of this. There will be deep unhappiness if we lose even one percent of this data. We have a duty of care and can't afford to lose data. About one percent of media proves problematical with errors and file mis-reads."

With an annual need for between 15,000 and 19,000 cartridges, even this one percent cartridge error rate means 150 - 190 reject cartridges a year. The problem is more acute than this as each time there is a tape generation change CERN will migrate data to the new generation, taking advantage of its capacity and I/O speed increases. Dr Curran is also expecting a StorageTek Powderhorn library to reach its end-of-life in 2008, meaning a migration of thousands of tapes to a StreamLine replacement.

Such a migration involves a lot of manual tape handling, not a good idea as that too prejudices tape quality.

Dr Curran does not want to find that existing data is unreadable when he tries to migrate it. That is worse than finding a new tape has too many errors to be usable, much worse, as precious data will be lost. And unlike the situation with disk drives there is no tape equivalent for disk bad block checking. Until now that is.
With Tapewise, Dr Curran now has a way of checking tape quality with an independent software product, one that can be, and is, used by tape library and media manufacturers. It means that tape media problems and drive problems can be identified quickly and their scope found out before data is put at risk. The cost-effectiveness of Tapewise was instantly visible to CERN.

Dr Curran described another benefit of Tapewise: "By using Tapewise it helps convince our management internally that there are problems. We need proper evidence to talk effectively to our managers and to our suppliers. It can stop us just giving up on the media. Tapewise will help us identify that a problem exists and define its scope very much more quickly”.

Tapewise Enterprise, recently enhanced by Clareti EDT, will provide CERN with a tool that has been needed for many years; a way to simply and reliably check tape media and drive quality. The tape media management task is much improved and CERN's ability to talk credibly with suppliers about quality problems will be much enhanced. Its ability to store the expected 15 plus petabytes of LHC data reliably and dependably for its global user base of thousands of physicists will also be enhanced.

Dr Curran described the type of tape quality checking task that will now be very much more manageable: "We have had three petabytes of media delivered recently. It weighed two and a half tonnes. All of it will be inserted into the libraries. As it is loaded we will run a full write test on one percent of it. We will do the same with other media when it arrives. We have to get this ready for LHC start-up in May 2008.”

Notes to editors
About CERN’s use of Tapewise
Dr Charles Curran is available to discuss CERN’s use of Tapewise, but please note the case study from CERN is now available. Please also note Dr Curran will be a keynote speaker on Business Intelligence at this year’s Storage Expo in London’s Olympia on 17th October 2007.
About Data Product Services (
Data Product Services are developers specialising in database and niche products like Tapewise. The team has over 10 years of proven tape quality media evaluation development experience. The company was founded in 1996 run by Matthew Augier, CEO and proprietor. For a free 14-day evaluation copy of Tapewise, please visit

About Gresham
Gresham designs and develops enterprise storage software applications. Many of the world’s most successful organisations choose Gresham to help improve their competitive edge and bottom line performance in some of the most challenging market sectors, including financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, utilities, telecommunications, and public services.
Media and analyst contact:
For more information, interviews with Dr Curran, the full CERN case study, CERN and product photography and screen shots or a copy of Tapewise for review, please contact:
Rose Ross and Hannah Knowles
Omarketing Limited
UK and RoW Tel: +44 (0)20 8255 5225
US Tel: +1 (781) 519 0275
E: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
DPS corporate contact:
Richard Augier
Sales and Marketing Director, DPS
Tel: +44 (0)1252 668 042
Gresham corporate contact:
Christopher Young
EMEA Storage, Gresham Enterprise Storage
Tel: +44 (0)1489 555 500

This case study can be downloaded HERE and below are a couple of photos from the installation.

Matthew Augier (DPS) and Dr.Charles Curran (CERN)
dps & cern

Matthew Augier (DPS) in front of one of CERN'S SL8500
Matthew Augier / SL8500




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