Datacenters and new generation Telescope, Big Data development in Chile

Written by Frank Schürch, Embassy of Switzerland in Chile

According to Prof. Marcos Sepulveda, from the School of Engineering at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, “Chile has not yet adopted Big Data in a significant manner. Data from the ENTI 2014 (National Study on Information Technology), shows that out of 142 CIO (Chief Information Officer) surveyed, only 4.2% said this technology was in use in their organization. Interest in Big Data is nevertheless confirmed, since 21.8% of respondents revealed they had plans to implement it in the short term.” In this article, two exemples of chilean initiative in Big Data, namely datacenters and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will be discussed.


Latest Datacenters Developments in Chile

In September 2012, Google announced its plans to build a data center in the municipality of Quilicura, near Santiago, Chile. The data center became fully operational in January 2015, and is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly data centers in Latin America. Chile has excellent wind, solar, and geothermal resources. It offers an ideal combination of reliable infrastructure, a skilled workforce and a commitment to transparent and business friendly regulations. Chile also fosters an atmosphere of innovation, and in recent years has developed cutting edge policies and programs that encourage the growth of the Internet.

Also, Chile has become one of the most active markets in the region for datacenters. In the last five years, the amount of data storage units in Chile has more than doubled, and has today reached a capacity of 130,000 square meters. This reflects especially multinational companies’ growing need to outsource their data storage systems as they experience constant increases in data flow and space shortage. The datacenters face new challenges as the demand for hardware with a high level of data processing capacity in a confined space increases.

 Big data is a new emerging area in Chile. Like in most other countries, there are no laws that currently regulate Big Data specifically. Legislation aimed at protecting consumers privacy might be created, but does not exist yet.

A Unique Case: Chile’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is a wide-field survey reflecting telescope with an 8.4-meter primary mirror, currently under construction, that will photograph the entire available sky every few nights. The telescope uses a novel 3-mirror design which delivers sharp images over a very wide 3.5-degree diameter field of view, feeding a 3.2 gigapixel CCD imaging camera, the largest digital camera ever constructed. It will be located on the El Peñón peak of Cerro Pachón, a 2’682 meter high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes. Site construction began on April 14, 2015. The telescope will be fully operational in January 2022.

LSST-45-degree-full A three dimentional rendering of the baseline design for the LSST with the telescope pointed at about 45 degrees of elevation Source:

A three dimentional rendering of the baseline design for the LSST with the telescope pointed at about 45 degrees of elevation

A 3.2-gigapixel prime focus digital camera will take a 15-second exposure every 20 seconds. Allowing for maintenance, bad weather and other contingencies, the camera is expected to take over 200,000 pictures (1.28 Petabytes uncompressed, or 1’280 Terabytes) per year, far more than can be reviewed by humans. Managing and effectively data mining the enormous output of the telescope is expected to be the most technically difficult part of the project. Initial computer requirements are estimated at 100 teraflops of computing power and 15 Petabytes (15 million GB) of storage, rising as the project collects data.



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