ALMA connects researchers across the world to reveal the mysteries of the universe

Together with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) we relay massive amounts of data generated by the telescope to scientist, from one of the most remote locations on the planet, helping ALMA create a reliable digital network has given the scientific community real-time access to information. They can study how galaxies are formed, peering deeper into the mysteries of the universe.  

Why ALMA needs to connect its remote site to the world

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory needs to relay massive amounts of data generated by the telescope to scientists probing the mysteries of the universe from one of the most remote locations on the planet.

ALMA is one of the most powerful scientific instruments in the world. However, the nature of the radio waves the telescope receives, requires it to be located at altitude in the dry air of the Atacama Desert in Chile. 

Located 5,000m above sea level, the thin air makes it hard for people to work at the Array Operations Site on a continual basis. To cater for this, an Operations Support Facility is located 2,000m lower, yet 30km away from the main array.

The facilities are connected via a high-speed fiber connection, while the Operations Support Facility is connected to ALMA’s Santiago Central Office. The entire network delivers huge quantities of data generated by the observatory to scientists across the world for analysis. With only a small technical team, this harsh environment creates a unique set of challenges.

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Technical Services,  Managed Network Services, Cybersecurity, Intelligent Infrastructure

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Which technologies?

Cisco (switching)

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‘We’re making a huge effort to unveil the mystery of the universe, and you’ll never know what you might find.’
Cristóbal Achermann , IT Project Manager, ALMA

How a network provides the backbone for scientific discovery

We deployed a managed network to ALMA, delivering 24/7 connectivity between the telescope and the world’s scientific community.

With a small IT team, ALMA doesn’t have the capability to manage such a large-scale network. So, we implemented a virtualization solution, using Cisco switches, with virtual routing and LAN capabilities. This provides ALMA with a fully-managed service.

Beyond the operations center, the network plays a critical role in supporting the work being done at the support center in Santiago.

What a high-availability, high speed network means for ALMA

The infrastructure managed for ALMA ensures data is available 24/7. As the demand for access grows, so does the partnership between ALMA and NTT.

ALMA is the benchmark in the next wave of networking and big data. The works completed on this project gives scientists reliable access to this scarce resource.

The operations center runs a fully virtualized network connecting the different sites. It powers the data center, consisting of 102 Cisco UCS blade servers in 12 chassis, all managed by NTT.

The partnership has strengthened further over the last seven years. The ALMA team relies on us to assist in planning for future upgrades and continuing growth in storage requirements.

'Our goal is to provide the best data possible back to the scientific community and NTT helped us to achieve our goal.’ 
Cristóbal Achermann , IT Project Manager, ALMA