Particle accelerator database tops 500T bytes

So you think you've got database scalability problems? Staff at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) are grappling with a database holding over 500T bytes of data, and growing at more than 500G bytes every day.

The database is the world's biggest, the center claimed in a statement Friday.

Physicists at the center are storing all this information in an object-oriented database running on 2000 processors in 100 servers.

The system holds data from the BaBar experiment, the name of which is derived from "B and B-bar," terms for the two kinds of subatomic particles which are smashed together at high speed inside the linear accelerator. Scientists are looking for minute differences in the interactions between these colliding particles, and need to store observations from the experiment for later analysis.

When construction work began on the BaBar project in 1996, researchers at SLAC and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), another U.S. Department of Energy laboratory, began developing the database on top of the Objectivity/DB system from Objectivity Inc. of Mountain View, California.

Two years and 500,000 lines of code later, they had an interface that would gather the experimental observations into the database, and let users pull them out again.

The scientists didn't set out to build the world's largest database: It just turned out that it needed to be that big, according to the statement.

And it's going to keep getting bigger: By midnight Monday, Pacific Time, the database contained 549.2T bytes of data, according to an automatically generated status page on the project's Web site.

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