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Photon and Neutron Community ready to act as a go-between for the e-Infrastructures and user communities

After the e-IRG Workshop in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, we took the opportunity to talk with Andy Götz from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) who is representing the Photon and Neutron community. This community consists of 17 institutes and 40.000 users in very different scientific fields. Andy Götz talked to the e-IRG community about what the Photon and Neutron community is doing and what it needs in terms of e-Infrastructures. The community is generating large quantities of data. The amount of data can go up to tens or hundreds of terabytes for one user group but it can also be very small, being less than 20 gigabytes.

Each of the institutes is dealing with up to 600 or even 1000 user groups every year. A third of these users are new every year. The challenge is how to make the data easy for these users to take home or to understand because they are coming from other fields, such as archaeology, paleontology or biology. Their field is not synchrotron radiation.  

Andy Götz explained that they have analyzed the situation. There is a strong movement within the community to go towards open data, make the data archivable, stored for the next ten years. The main challenge they have is how to analyze this data. The technical challenge of analyzing it, let's say the infrastructural challenges, are not the main issues they seem to be facing in the community because they find most of those either exist or can be bought for money. The biggest bottleneck they have is the software for writing the data analysis and optimizing it. As the data volumes grow bigger, they need more.

Andy Götz said that, except for the networking which we all depend upon, what the e-Infrastructures offer is not really something that they thought they needed because they can find the e-Infrastructure from commercial companies at prices that they have found are not so expensive. They did a comparison with Amazon. Amazon provided them with the same performance of what they have inside. They have not done any detailed analysis of how much they can send to Amazon but they know now that it is possible.   

In the discussion, there seems to be some contesting of these figures. One thinks it will not be easy to scale up these figures. The community has to look into them in more detail but the members of the community are not sure that the e-Infrastructures will be able to scale up to the hundreds of petabytes that they have to deal with. There is however definitely room to collaborate, get in contact with each other and try to build a bigger picture, according to Andy Götz.

His community has not been contacted before, so Andy Götz was very happy to attend the e-IRG Workshop. However, he has a feeling that his user communities are not really considered as input for the e-Infrastructures. Their needs are not really being analyzed. Andy Götz therefore thinks that the Photon and Neutron community can act as a go-between for the e-Infrastructures and the user communities.