CIC's OmniPoP Network Links Physicists with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN

Feb 24, 2012


Particle physicists from five CIC universities (University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, University of Michigan, and Michigan State University) that are part of the consortium collaborating on the ATLAS experiment, maximized their grant funding to share enormous data sets using the CIC’s OmniPoP fiber network, saving hundreds of thousands of thousands of dollars in start-up equipment, maintenance and management costs.

The ATLAS Experiment, based out of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, involves high-energy protons being accelerated and crashed together in hopes of discovering new particles never before observed. In a recent University of Michigan article, Shawn McKee (UMich), research scientist and director of the Great Lakes Tier 2 Computing Center, compared the experiment to crashing two cars together at high speeds to see what parts fly off. But rather than carburetors, these scientists are hoping to discover new particles that may change what we know about the origins of the universe.

The CIC is home to two ATLAS Tier 2 centers, the US ATLAS Midwest Tier2 Center (UChicago, IU, UIUC) and the Great Lakes Tier2 Computing Center (U-Mich and MSU). While the actual experiments are performed at the LHC at CERN, the Tier 2 centers allow scientists world-wide to analyze the data, simulate the experiments, and share their results. Rob Gardner (UChicago), director of the US ATLAS Tier 2 Center, explained that these centers process an extraordinary amount of data, both real data from CERN, and simulated data from recreating scenarios. This data is then made available to physicists across the CIC and world-wide. According to Gardner, “The OmniPoP connection will provide a much needed meeting point to exchange data between the five Tier 2 computing locations, effectively creating a very large regional data federation.”

The OmniPoP network will connect researchers at the CIC centers to collaborate, share data, and eliminate the need to duplicate work. According to Shawn McKee, “Both of these centers use the same technologies, and having this connection provides the capacity to collaborate. To put it simply, OmniPoP will help get more science done.” McKee also expressed that the federating of data between these two centers will provide a great model for others to follow. As McKee explained, “OmniPoP is the facilitator that allows this to happen.”

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