Information Technology (IT)

The IT Department, born from the people working on the Virgo IT systems from the INFN and CNRS laboratories before the birth of the EGO institution, has in charge the design, implementation and operation of the whole IT infrastructure at the site from the network level to the operating system and services level and also of many of the software applications built for the Virgo interferometer itself or the collaboration (NoEMi noise pipeline, documentation or monitoring web sites, data transfer).

Further, the IT group operates mail and web servers, supports users with desktop hardware and software, and maintains the technical infrastructure in the lecture hall and seminar rooms.

Head: Antonella Bozzi – Tel. +39 050 752 540

Computer Help Desk (internal)

OVERVIEW

When you read about the detection of a new gravitational wave event, such as GW170817 which spotted the first kilonova episode that has been seen optically in the early stages thanks to the early LIGO-Virgo localization, you can be sure that a lot of fast computation has occurred to let it happen.

The Cascina site is the first stage of the computing chain which extracts the signal from the Virgo interferometer and exchanges it with the ones from the LIGO (and in the future also from KAGRA) interferometers with a delay smaller than a minute. The second stage (on-line data analysis) being the computation of the signals from all the interferometers in coincidence to hunt for the gravitational waves candidate events . The third stage being the verification of the discovered events back on the interferometers to insure that there are no noise artifacts. And the final stage being the comparison of the events with the non-gravitational detectors.

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Even though modern Internet bandwidth allows for the computing power to be located anywhere and still receive in quasi-realtime the interferometer signal amounting to a few kilobytes per second, many tasks, such as the validation of the event candidates against the status of the interferometer require to access a lot of additional data at the detector site itself ( additional acquisition channels ) performing computations in the order of minutes. To this end, including two on-line data analysis pipelines residing on-site, a computing farm of about 1200 physical cores, accessing more than 2PB of data runs continuously in the EGO Datacenter, mainly on linux virtual machines. And since the gravitational waves detectors are “observatories” the IT infrastructure needs to be active h24x7. In addition EGO works as a research institute aiming at spreading and fostering the research on the gravitational waves at the european level while the Virgo Collaboration, as a virtual collaboration of groups from many nations, has its central repository of information at the EGO site. This makes Cascina the pivotal site of activity for the Gravitational Waves science in Europe and the IT infrastructure hosts all the workplaces, personal productivity tools, documentation, web, meeting systems, etc. to let this happen. The current IT infrastructure generation has been developed from 2013 to 2017 for the Advanced Virgo detector era, which, together with LIGO, provided the historical discoveries of gravitational waves events since 2017. The network is based on a LAN backbone of 2×10 Gbps all over the 3km+3km site extension connected to the Datacenter core spine-leaf fabric with multiples of 2×40 Gbps links insuring at least 5Gbps of bandwith to each computing node in the worst conditions. On top of that a virtualization layer has been setup using mainly Citrix XenServer hypervisors plus VMware and HyperV hosts, all running on high density physical blade servers with various generation of Intel processors. The storage system, running through an iSCSI SAN on the same converged network infrastructure, is made of various arrays with different capabilities ranging from the few TB on-line buffers for the writing of Data Acquisition to the multi-PB repository serving on-line the data from the whole last year supporting the interferometer development. The data for the Virgo scientific activities are served either through memory-to-memory network trasmission to the cluster of linux standalone servers for the fast processing or via NFS to the HTCondor farm for jobs with less stringent time requirements. Both for the generals scientific activity and the personal productivity virtual workstations are provided In VDI mode as linux or windows desktops, reachable via thin clients spread on the site or accessible remotely by authenticated users. Finally, the site is connected to the Internet via a 10Gbps fibre link reaching the Pisa metropolitan area network 20km far away. Through this link flows the continuous data transfer mirroring the produced Virgo data of about 1PB per year to the Datacenters for long-term archiving and off-line data analysis, but also the exchange of data with the LIGO detectors or with the INGV seismic network.

Expertises & facilities

The IT Department, born from the people working on the Virgo IT systems from the INFN and CNRS laboratories before the birth of the EGO institution, has in charge the design, implementation and operation of the whole IT infrastructure at the site from the network level to the operating system and services level and also of many of the software applications built for the Virgo interferometer itself or the collaboration (NoEMi noise pipeline, documentation or monitoring web sites, data transfer)

Technicians and Engineers have expertises in the following areas:

  • LAN architecture and cabling, wireless networks
  • Security assessment and auditing, VPN and remote access
  • Virtual Machines architectures (IaaS)
  • Linux and Windows operating systems and clustering
  • VDI architectures
  • Identity Management and SAML authentication
  • Storage systems and SANs
  • HTCondor configuration
  • MySQL and Microsoft-SQL databases and clusters
  • PHP/.Net/python development
  • iOS/Android development
  • Web Content Management Systems
  • DNS/mail/Radius/Certificate services
  • VoIP phone systems
  • AudioVideo and Teleconferencing systems
  • Physical access and monitoring systems
  • Datacenter facilities, Datacenter fabric architectures

Gallery

You can find in this area a selection of main pictures of realization, simualtions and calculations of Interferometer Department Developments.

Contacts

Via E. Amaldi,5
56021 Cascina (PI) – Italy
Tel +39 050 752511
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How to reach us

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