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NCSA Upgrades Granite to Expand Availability to ACCESS, Illinois Researchers

A person typing on a laptop. Data points in light blue and purple overlaid. Meant to convey the idea of a science writer who works with big data stories.

As the capabilities of technology continue to expand and grow, so does the need for data storage. Researchers across the country and on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus continue to generate large datasets that need to be stored and shared long-term. New innovations in artificial intelligence and processing algorithms also mean that training and reprocessing of previously collected datasets is becoming more and more common.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications understands these critical needs for researchers and, with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, will upgrade its primary active archive system, Granite.

Granite is a cutting-edge tape-based data subsystem that allows researchers to store and retrieve data in both traditional and newer, more flexible methods. It’s closely integrated with Taiga – NCSA’s global file system – to provide users with a place to store longer-term archive datasets.

The funding allows NCSA to upgrade Granite’s tape drives and media from the TS1140 tape drive to the latest-available LTO-9. The new hardware will provide 4.5 times greater density of the library and almost double the system’s performance.

Researchers continue to generate large volumes of data that need to be stored and shared for long periods of time. These upgrades allow researchers to store data for future reprocessing using new algorithms and allow data to be made available to other researchers for reproducibility purposes and to gain further insight.

J.D. Maloney, Senior Research Storage Engineer at NCSA and principal investigator of the award

“There is an urgent need to explore pragmatic data archiving strategies,” said University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Research Data Service Director Heidi Imker. “In a world of infinite resources, all data would be just one click away. But that’s not feasible – or even necessary – for many datasets, especially large ones. This grant will allow us to explore alternative strategies and pilot what implementation would look like in practice.”

Imker and NCSA’s Associate Director of Integrated Cyberinfrastructure Tim Boerner are both co-principal investigators on the NSF funding for Granite, which will strengthen the ability for Illinois researchers and the national research community – through the NSF cyberinfrastructure program ACCESS – to store, share and utilize their data in the ways they need. Eighty percent of allocations on Granite will go to Illinois researchers and the remaining 20 percent will be allocated through ACCESS. Granite’s upgrades are expected to be completed by mid-summer 2024.


The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing, expertise 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 innovative resources to address research challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been assisting many of the world’s industry giants for over 35 years by bringing industry, researchers and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.


The Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Coordination Ecosystem: Services & Support (ACCESS) program is a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded virtual organization that facilitates cyberinfrastructure (CI) support for research. Through ACCESS, researchers can request time allocated from an extensive network of CI resources such as advanced computing, data resources and analysis, visualization, and storage. The ACCESS CI ecosystem is essential to computational and data-intensive research with a goal of providing seamless collaboration between resources and researchers.

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