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NCSA building security framework for LSST

Kay Avila, Bill Glick and Matt Kollross from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) traveled to La Serena, Chile recently to begin building a security framework for LSST, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. This is the first time NCSA has installed systems outside of the United States in its 31 year history.

LSST is one of astronomy’s most ambitious projects to survey one-third of the sky in an effort to detect new and unexpected astronomical events. LSST will collect 15 terabytes of raw image data every night, which will be processed at NCSA in near-real time to produce alert notifications of new and unexpected astronomical events. The data will be reprocessed annually to create a 200-petabyte data archive by the end of its 10-year mission.

While the LSST data center is still currently under construction, NCSA has been tasked with installing security and establishing authentication. “It’s security first and authentication, before anything else,” said senior systems engineer, Bill Glick, who has worked on the LSST project for five years. “Two firewalls, two networks switches, six intrusion detection systems that run Bro software, Qualys vulnerability scanner appliance, and three virtual machine (VMware) servers,” he said. This security framework makes way for additional equipment expected to arrive in 2019.

Avila, Glick, and Kollross were also able to visit the summit where LSST will be positioned to survey the night sky. “Being there made it real,” said Avila. “It was surreal and amazing.”

“Going to the summit reinforced that I was part of the larger project,” said Kollross, “Once we got there and we saw it, it was like, ‘Oh yeah. We are part of LSST.'”

“Everything I’ve understood has been drawings, and now I see it,” said Bill Glick. “I felt honored being there. To actually be down there and see it 95% complete, is crazy. So many of the people working on the project likely won’t visit that summit, even astronomers, who are working with data coming from NCSA, so it was humbling.”

This work would have been impossible without vital collaborations. NCSA and LSST are collaborating with other organizations, through Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO).

“Andreas Villalobos, IT systems engineer for LSST, went out of his way to get us set up,” said Kollross. “He (Andreas) was willing to help us solve a problem by even taking some of his equipment offline. He is very motivated and believes in the project,” said Avila. Carol Chirino, organized logistics for the group, and Mauricio Rojas, network engineer for CTIO assisted the group on the ground in Chile.

Avila’s security operations team were assisting remotely from NCSA in the United States.

More equipment is expected to arrive late this summer. Next summer (June 2019), another group will head back to Chile to help open the new data center that’s currently under construction, and set up a small system at the summit that hosts authentication systems.

About NCSA

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation’s science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50® for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.

About LSST

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) under construction in Chile will begin capturing images of the night sky in 2021—enabling a new age of cosmic discovery with the most detailed pictures ever taken from Earth. The 3.2 gigapixel camera will take over 800 pairs of panoramic photos each night that will be processed by NCSA in real-time. Over the 10-year survey, NCSA will be the main LSST data center, archiving all images and catalogs of astronomical objects and making these data available to astronomers for scientific analysis.

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