What Software Doe the Large Hadron Collider Use?

One can only imagine that something as sophisticated as the Hadron Collider that it would be operated through technology. Relying on software for its functionality. But what kind of software would be sophisticated and powerful enough to run the world’s largest particle accelerator?

Who Is In Charge of the LHC?

The entity that is in charge of this piece of scientific equipment is CERN. Which is  The European Organization for Nuclear Research. This is huge scientific laboratory. Not only does it oversee many scientific responsibilities it is also where the World Wide Web originated from. 

What is the Purpose of the LHC?

This piece of scientific equipment has been developed for the purpose of allowing physicists to test different theories pertaining to particle physics.

Gathering Data

With all of the different experiments that this piece of equipment is going to be conducting every piece of data that it produces will have to be collected and stored for analysis. One would think that for something as important as this that the scientists would be relying on the most advanced state of the art hardware and software because of the importance of the data. The LHC does utilize software for its operation and gathering of data that is sophisticated.

The Software

The software currently being used is Midware. It is compatible with a large network on computers. The network of computers was necessary because no single computer was going to be able to handle the massive amount of data that will be processed when the LHC is operating. There is so much data that comes from different sectors of the equipment. It meant having a way that chunks of that data could be analyzed independently. The way to achieve this was with a network of computers.

gLite

This is the actually Midware software that is use for this scientific equipment. It is especially designed for grid computing which meets the requirements for the LHC. It took 80+ professionals to develop this software. They came from different parts of Europe and from a variety of research centres that were both academic and industrial. gLite allows for the building of different applications by utilizing available resources on the internet. This software is not just restricted for use with the LHC but is using in a large number of computing centres around the world. 

Access to gLite

This is not the run of the mill software that everyone can or needs access to. The users belong to organizations called virtual organization. Any entity that wants to use gLite has to belong to one of these organizations. The VO must have the authorization to utilize grid resources.

Security Measures

One can only imagine how sensitive the data is that is collected from scientific equipment especially like that which the LHC will produce. Security for the software is critically important. Aside from the strict protocol for users there is a security infrastructure that has been built into the software itself. It is comprised of key encryption, certificates and SSL. 

It means user of the software have to have a specific certificate that has been issued to them by a certification authority.

Using the Software

To be able to access gLite they have to be able to get to the user interface. This requires a machine that has had the user certificate installed and the user has an account that is applicable to that particular machine. Once this is in place then the user has access to the interface where they can then use the different resources that the software is comprised of. Some basic grid operations can be managed from the interface using CLI tools.

The Different Elements of Software

Like any software gLite is capable of performing different tasks such as:

Computing:

GLite has computing resources that the user can choose to install based on their requirements. These are the components of the software that allow for the acceptance of jobs and it has the ability to dispatch them. 

Storage

This is a critical component of the software that is highly important for the LHC. The software has a built in storage element that allows for a large range of applications like controlling simple disk servers right up to Mass storage systems. This element has the ability to support different data access protocols. It can hand whole file transfers. With the amount of data that LHC will create this will be most beneficial for those who are going to be accessing and analyzing this data. The software allows the storage resource manager the ability to perform different tasks that are important for data collection. There are many different implementations that can be carried out with data storage such as file pinning, migration and space reservation. It allows for the use of the disk pool manager for small SEs and CASTOR for large scale MSS management. 

Information 

This element of the software allows users to access information about the grid resources and what their status is. Without this the operation of the grid would be at risk. This element also is necessary for monitoring and for accounting. 

Workload

This is the WMS (workload management system). The function it performs is accepting jobs then designating them to the element that is most appropriate. Jobs that are entered into the software are done so with a special computer language called JDL (Job description language). This language determines what is to be executed and what the parameters are. Also, which files are to be moved. 

The software uses a process for workload management that is comprised of first match making which is the process for determining which element is going to be needed. Then from these it chooses the one with the highest rank.  The input files are chosen as determined in the job description using the Data location interface. 

An update to the software now allows for multiple jobs to be submitted.

The software also has a logging and bookkeeping service that can be accessed for tracking the jobs that WMS manages.

The software is sophisticated and appears to have all of the requirements that the LHD is going to need, but there are some that believe that the software is outdated.