The European Southern Observatory or ESO sets strict requirements for its IT which have been met by means of external managed services. What exactly the observatory's current IT outsourcing model looks like will be shown by Florian Heissenhuber of ESO at the big Comarch event taking place on June 25. In the ESO Planetarium near Munich, he will explain how to approach IT outsourcing in such a difficult scenario.
The European Southern Observatory operates telescopes in the middle of the sand and rock massifs of Chile where one of the world's most advanced observatories enables studying the stars. The dedicated IT systems have to be operational 24 hours a day since they are used to capture unique, irreproducible celestial events that astronomers convert into petabytes worth of research results.
Therefore, IT has always been of great importance at ESO. As early as 1974, when the above photo was taken, the work of the research institute had been supported by computers. Back then, the depicted astronomer, Rudi Albrecht, was working on software for the spectrum scanner connected to ESO's 1-meter telescope at the La Silla observatory. The data was processed in Santiago using the Hewlett Packard 2100 minicomputer which can be seen behind the printer and contained two 7970 tape drives, a 7900 hard drive, and a 2748 paper tape reader. This bulky computer with a single processor and a staggering 16-kilobyte magnet-core memory stored the results on magnetic tape, which enabled the astronomers to further process them on computers in their home institutes.
The second picture shows the same astronomer decades later in the data center at ESO's headquarters in Garching near Munich where the data from the ESO telescopes is being archived and distributed. He is standing in front of a rack that contains a system of 40 processor cores, 138 terabytes storage space, and 83 gigabytes RAM – over five million times more memory than the machine he used in 1974! Even the tablet PC in his hands exceeds the old machine's capacity by far and provides a modern alternative to pen and paper.
The capacity for remote data transmission of the radio telescope Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has increased by a factor of 25. To this end, a new connection comprising 150 kilometers of fiber-optic cables was installed.
As we can see, IT developments have been furthering the cutting-edge research conducted by ESO for decades. Ensuring smooth IT operation by providing required IT services, Comarch can proudly claim to have contributed to this for nearly four years now.