Computer Systems Development

 | 5.1 Infrastructure Improvements | 5.2 Carbon Sequestration Web Server | 5.3 Y2K Preparation and Outcome | 5.4 Computer Systems Maintenance and Updates | 5.5 Plans for FY 2001 |

5. Computer Systems Development

CDIAC’s Computer Systems continues to search for ways to improve our operation and increase efficiency. Over the past few years, we have achieved great success by making our products available via our Web site and FTP server. Electronic distribution not only cuts publication and distribution costs but also allows us to deliver more timely information to a rapidly-expanding audience. The response to easily accessible electronic publications and data has been outstanding. This response by our user community is exactly what we hoped to achieve. However, to keep pace with the proliferation of data and increasing global interest in those data, we must continue to anticipate the impact of emerging information technologies and position ourselves to apply those technologies to meet the needs of our audience.

5.1 Infrastructure Improvements

5.1.1 Network Upgrade

The growth in electronic distribution, projections for continued growth in this area, the trend to larger data sets, and the resulting need to interactively format and extract data subsets once again established a clear need for improved tools to accomplish these tasks. Previously, we undertook wholesale hardware upgrades by implementing a new 4-processor Sun® Enterprise 450 server, doubling our RAID (redundant array of independent disks) storage capacity, and implementing an automated digital linear tape (DLT) storage library. We completed these infrastructure improvements in FY 2000 by upgrading our communications network. This upgrade moved us from fixed transmission rates to a fiber-based, switched system. This upgrade resulted in a tenfold increase of our network throughput and much more efficient routing of local network traffic.

5.1.2 New Metadata Standard

Having successfully completed upgrades to our central server hardware, we turned our attention to improving our data/software infrastructure. There are many new, rapidly developing information management tools designed to help users accurately locate pertinent data while eliminating extraneous information. These tools, typically XML (eXtensible Markup Language) -based, require complete and accurate metadata to be useful. To take full advantage of these tools at CDIAC, we created and implemented a new metadata standard. While being legible and readily understandable by humans, our new standard is compliant with the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) metadata content standard and will work well with evolving XML-based tools. We inventoried and reviewed our existing metadata holdings and then set about the tedious process of expanding the metadata associated with each of our products. This process ensured that current metadata records were comprehensive, complete, and in accordance with the new standard. This process was successfully completed, with new metadata (.met) files created for each CDIAC product.

5.1.3 New Analysis Software

We also purchased and installed SAS/Insight software on our central server. SAS/Insight compliments the other components of the SAS System at CDIAC by providing an interactive tool for exploring and analyzing data. It allows CDIAC staff to quickly examine univariate distributions, visualize multivariate data, and evaluate models through an extensive suite of statistical techniques and graphical representations. These preliminary analyses serve as a discovery tool to guide staff in the application of statistical analysis methodologies, which are part of CDIAC’s extensive quality assurance process.

5.1.4 Desktop Development/Analysis Platform

Finally, we evaluated several alternatives for replacing our aged desktop hardware. After considerable testing, we arrived at a cost-effective combination that provides tremendous flexibility. The winning combination consists of the Linux operating system, Intel/AMD-based hardware®, VMware®, and Windows 2000®. VMware® is a thin software layer that sits between the hardware architecture and the operating system, creating a virtual machine and managing all hardware resources. This software allows us to run any version of Microsoft Windows®, from Windows 3.1® to Windows 2000®, as a guest operating system. This configuration affords us the features and security of a UNIX®-based operating system while allowing us to utilize Windows-based tools and test our products in various Windows® environments. One attractive feature Vmware® provides is the ability to move in and out of applications across the different operating systems without rebooting. Having completed our testing, and based on the positive results, we will begin migrating to this desktop configuration in FY 2001.

5.2 Carbon Sequestration Web Server

At the request of DOE program management, we configured a Sun workstation, hardware and software, to function as the server for the Carbon Sequestration Web site. This Web server is still under our direction, and has received over 50,000 visits from countries around the world.

5.3 Y2K Preparation and Outcome

Our diligent application of DOE and ORNL guidelines in preparation for the year 2000 prepared us well for the new millennium. We experienced no computer system problems resulting from the millennium changeover.

5.4 Computer Systems Maintenance and Updates

We also spent a considerable amount of time performing necessary routine functions in support of the CDIAC Computing System Network. These tasks included backing up nightly, upgrading/replacing disk drives, creating new file systems, installing/upgrading application software and operating system enhancements, restoring user-deleted files, installing/replacing uninterruptible power supply (UPS), responding to a wide variety of CDIAC staff calls for help, producing Web statistics, making wholesale Web changes (e.g., area code), providing Web design direction, and maintaining general Web development area.

5.5 Plans for FY 2001

Based on system improvements implemented in FY 1999 and FY 2000, we are well-positioned to take full advantage of evolving computing and information management technologies. We have plans to implement several new information management tools under development at ORNL. We are excited by what these tools will offer our user community and look forward to a productive year in FY 2001.

We will replace our existing desktop systems by implementing the new desktop development/analysis platform described in 5.1. This combination consists of the Linux operating system®, Intel/AMD-based hardware®, VMware®, and Windows 2000®.

We will work with DAAC staff to develop a CDIAC application of their ORNL Metadata Editor (OME). The OME will expedite metadata generation by providing a dynamic interface for the input and modification of metadata. The OME will automatically generate .met files based on the CDIAC standard and .xml files based on the XML standard. These metadata files will make CDIAC data much more visible through internet indexing services and will improve the accuracy of those services.

We will implement a CDIAC version of Mercury. Mercury, developed at ORNL, is a data search and retrieval system that utilizes metadata to perform very accurate searches. Mercury will provide our users with sophisticated data search tools, including browse trees and dynamic pick lists. In addition to these tools, the CDIAC version of Mercury will provide tools to perform spatial and temporal data searches. Mercury offers but one example of the benefits to be derived from implementation of CDIAC’s new metadata standard.

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|  Introduction   |  Focus AreasData and Information Products |  Information Services |
Computer Systems Development
| CDIAC Presentations, Publications, and Awards
Selected CDIAC Citations
| Collaborations |  Acronyms and Abbreviations|

CDIACCarbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 
U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN  USA 
Tel:  (865) 574-0390 FAX:  (865) 574-2232      Internet:

Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center  ORNL Environmental Sciences Division  Oak Ridge National Laboratory  United States Department of Energy