With the support of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, INAF) chose Oracle's technology to support its research activity within the Gaia mission, which has been launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) and which aims to create a precise three-dimensional map of the Milky Way galaxy.
In particular, INAF chose Oracle Database and Oracle Enterprise Manager to deliver the highest efficiency in archiving and processing scientific data collected by the Gaia satellite. In this way INAF confirmed the value of a choice already made by other authoritative international scientific institutions, such as CERN.
After much preparatory work, ESA's mission officially started on December 19th 2013, with the launch of the Gaia satellite. In the next 5 years, INAF will be in charge of managing and giving access to up to 1 petabyte of astronomical data (equivalent to 1 million gigabytes) that will be generated by the satellite's observation activity - around 1 hundred billion elementary observations are foreseen - and that will be stored in the mission archive at the Italian Data Processing Center (DPCT).
In order to be able to manage such an extraordinary volume of data, INAF needed to rely on a system characterized by very high availability, absolute reliability and extreme security. For 4 years before Gaia satellite's launch, INAF and ALTEC - the Italian center of excellence specialized in the supply of engineering and logistic services for the International Space Station, which also operates the DPCT - have been working to develop a technological infrastructure based on three instances of Oracle Database for development, production and archiving activities related to the Gaia mission. Together with Oracle Database, INAF deployed Oracle Advanced Compression to reduce data volumes, expected to be in the petabyte range, to manageable sizes, in order to keep hardware infrastructure costs low and shorten back-up times.
Oracle Enterprise Manager was also deployed to efficiently manage the multiple Oracle Database instances and their use with Oracle Real Application Clusters, allowing more than 1,200 operations to occur simultaneously. Oracle Enterprise Manager is also used to ensure reliable access to Gaia mission data stored in Oracle Database for numerous third-party applications and systems that control and verify the correct functioning of satellites and astronomical instruments.
During the important four-year phase of launch preparation, Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services specialists helped INAF and ALTEC to develop and test the complete system, through simulations and the customization of astronomically oriented features for Oracle Database.
"Our activity within the Gaia mission will provide a huge volume of information, a very precious heritage of astronomical data that will have to be stored for the whole 21st century and beyond", stated Roberto Morbidelli, Scientific Operation Manager at INAF. "Oracle has demonstrated in other research contexts that it would be the ideal technological partner to manage scientific projects of this kind of size. Thus we are sure that it will be a successful choice for INAF too. Oracle has been selected for its technology's reliability, scalability, availability and the appropriate technological evolution planned in the next years; also key was the competence showed by Oracle experts in the development of features useful to our research."
"We are proud to offer our technology to the Gaia mission, an international research project that is of both major importance and high ambition", stated Xavier Verhaeghe, Vice President, Technology & Big Data Oracle EMEA. "INAF's choice is another confirmation of Oracle's ability to easily manage the extreme challenges involved in processing petabytes of Big Data."