Unisys Corporation announced the "Real-Time Petabyte Challenge" - a research initiative aimed at developing petabyte-sized storage that will allow researchers, and businesses to have instant, real-time access to vast amounts of data at a more affordable price. Working with partners Microsoft  and Cornell University, Unisys engineers aim to decrease data retrieval time by four orders of magnitude (1/10,000) over existing petabyte storage systems. (A petabyte is a unit of measurement in computers of one thousand million million bytes.)

With recent compliance legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley and increasing corporate governance over information security, businesses around the world are on the brink of a "data tsunami." Not only must companies be able to store petabytes of data, they must also be able to retrieve this information instantly and at an affordable cost - consider a petabyte as the storage capacity required to hold all of the information in the U.S. Library of Congress, fifty times over. The Real-Time Petabyte Challenge aims to solve this industry concern.

"Petabyte storage is not a new phenomenon," said Peter Karnazes, director of High Performance Computing at Unisys. "However, what is revolutionary is the requirement to immediately access large amounts of this data. Within the next five years, as businesses strive to comply with information security legislation, online petabyte storage will become a necessity. To realize this vision, significant advancement in storage and storage management must be achieved to dramatically reduce the cost of these storage systems, which would otherwise fall in the range of $50 to $100 million using today's enterprise-class storage devices. Unisys goal in this challenge is to develop a highly manageable system of reliable commodity storage disks at one-tenth the price."

The Real-Time Petabyte Challenge is currently using data from three separate Cornell projects funded by a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation and Cornell's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate. The research is being conducted by Cornell's Computer Science and Astronomy departments, and the Program for Computer Graphics.

The independent projects:

·         Analyze data from the Arecibo Telescope, the world's largest radio telescope, to find pulsars and other exotic objects;

·         Study the effects of light reflection on complex objects and structures for accurate image rendering;

·         Develop models to accurately measure the evolution of the World Wide Web.

All three data-intensive projects are managed by one ES7000/430 server with 32 Intel Itanium 2 processor-based nodes. Through these projects, Unisys is working with the scientific community to test the performance and capacity of low-cost commodity storage disks to provide more affordable, cost effective, real time data management and access. By the third year of the grant, the system is expected to exceed one petabyte of data.

"The computing power and storage capacity of the Unisys equipment enhances Cornell's ability to conduct innovative research," said David Likfa, chief technology officer at the Cornell Theory Center (CTC). "The ES7000 server provides researchers with the performance and scalability necessary to handle data intensive projects, and the storage system has given our researchers the ability to retrieve data efficiently and effectively."

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