SciServer, SkyServer, and CasJobs: Big Data Infrastructure for Science From Johns Hopkins University
From the National Science Foundation:
A new project called SciServer, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), aims to build a long-term, flexible ecosystem to provide access to the enormous data sets from observations and simulation.
“SciServer will help meet the challenges of Big Data,” said Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins University, the principal investigator of the five-year NSF-funded project and the architect for the Science Archive of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. “By building a common infrastructure, we can create data access and analysis tools useful to all areas of science.”
SciServer grew out of work with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), an ambitious, ongoing project to map the entire universe.
“When the SDSS began in 1998, astronomers had data for less than 200,000 galaxies,” said Ani Thakar, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins who is part of the SciServer team. “Within five years after SDSS began, we had nearly 200 million galaxies in our database. Today, the SDSS data exceeds 70 terabytes, covering more than 220 million galaxies and 260 million stars.”
The Johns Hopkins team created several online tools for accessing SDSS data. For instance, using the SkyServer website, anyone with a web browser can navigate through the sky, getting detailed information about stars or searching for objects using multiple criteria. The site also includes classroom-ready educational activities that allow students to learn science using cutting-edge data.
[Our emphasis] To allow users–scientists, citizen scientists, students–to run longer-term analyses of the Sloan data, they created CasJobs, an online workbench where registered users can run queries for up to eight hours and store results in a personal “MyDB” database for later analysis.
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