Although a technology title, CIO concentrates on the business story for technology and the business people behind it, commonly known as CIOs. Although in no way experts of technology I use a lot of it to put CIO.co.uk together and have been involved in this whole transformation of the media from print to online almost from graduation day to today, so I generally get to grips with the technology stories CIOs tell me.
That has not been the case for the last two days though. I have just returned from Geneva where I attended an event at CERN, home of the famous Large Hadron Collider. With the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) CERN is conducting the most powerful physics experiment yet conceived by man, the recreation of Big Bang that created our universe. As a result CERN creates data levels beyond the imagination of most CIOs. Through a technical relationship with Intel CERN has recently completed a major datacentre server overhaul. A look at these numbers explains why: CERN and its partners will be processing 15 Petabytes of data a year; there are 9000 researchers carrying out complex analysis on this data; 113 countries are involved with CERN and 550 institutes. And to add to the complexity the CERN datacentre has a power limit of 2.9MW.
So CERN openlab CTO Sverre Jarp had a task of almost Large Hadron Collider complexity on his hands when seeking to overhaul the servers. As a full feature to follow will explain, the partnership with Intel led to the Xeon 5500 series being adopted throughout.
Although the numbers behind the CERN data are difficult to grasp, the actual LHC really is rocket science. After meeting with Jarp we were taken on a tour of the CERN facility, which includes a border crossing into France. A pair of eminent scientists gracefully answered the questions of journalists and painstakingly explained the science of the LHC. We were able to see parts of it on rigs in a hanger. Close up the LHC does look like a rocket, it's a long cylinder packed with pipes, cables and reflective insulation. Connected to these were machines covered in dials and read outs. The control room was a modern take of that seen in the movie Apollo 13 with banks of intent scientists bent over PCs, massive banks of screens covered in complex graphs. I listened to the presentations from the scientists, my head hurt, and still I cannot get my head fully around matter and anti-matter and everything being researched at CERN. It really is rocket science.