I.T. in-depth at DUSEL

This guest blog is contributed by Warren Matthews, Cyber-Infrastructure Chief Engineer at the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab (DUSEL).

Guest Blogger: Warren Matthews, DUSEL

The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) is a research lab being constructed in the former Homestake gold mine in Lead, South Dakota, now resurrected to mine data about the earth, new life forms, and the universe itself. When finished, DUSEL will explore fundamental questions in particle physics, nuclear physics and astrophysics. Biologists will study life in extreme environments. Geologists will study the structure of the earth’s crust. Early science programs have already begun to explore some of these questions. In addition, DUSEL education programs are underway to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This interdisciplinary collaboration of scientists and engineers is led by the University of California at Berkeley and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.


I am the cyberinfrastructure chief engineer for DUSEL. As such, my concern is the research environment and advanced services that will be needed to accomplish our scientific goals. To enable future discoveries, scientists will need to capture, analyze, and exchange their data. We will have to deploy and perhaps even develop new technologies to provide the scientists with the technical and logistical support for their research. We expect that the unique research opportunities and instrumentation that will be established at DUSEL will draw scientific teams from all over the world to South Dakota, so high-speed national and International network connectivity will also critical.

National laboratories have made many important contributions in the development of IT and networking technology.  I’m very pleased that DUSEL is the newest member of the ESnet community and I have no doubt that we’ll be leveraging their expertise.  In conversations with numerous colleagues at other labs it has become apparent that although DUSEL is starting with a clean slate and there are no legacy systems to support, we still have common issues and some difficult decisions to consider. All the labs have the challenges of meeting the needs of both large and small scientific collaborations. We all feel the budget crunch and are streamlining our support infrastructure. We are all wondering how we can optimize our use of the Cloud.

Delving into underground research

At DUSEL we have our own particular challenges, starting with an extreme underground environment. On the surface, the Black Hills of South Dakota may be freezing, but the further you go down in the mine, the hotter it gets. Rock temperatures at the 4850′ level, where the mid-level campus is under construction, are around 70F (21〫C) and humidity is around 88%. At the 7400′ level, where the deep-level campus is planned, temperatures hover around 120F (50〫C). The high levels of temperature and humidity have a significant impact on computer equipment.  We’ll figure out our challenges as we go, depending on shared expertise. After all, national labs were created to focus effort and move forward knowledge where no one university could marshal the resources required. Our goal is to provide a platform where science, technology, and innovation are able to flourish.

We anticipate technology partnerships with the many experiments are going underground at DUSEL. Currently we are expanding IPv6 and deploying perfSONAR. We are leveraging HD video conferencing. We are worrying about identity management and cyber security. We are establishing the requirements for dynamic network provisioning.  And at the same time we’re wondering what other technologies will emerge in the next 20 or 30 years and what will be required to dig for new discoveries. You can keep track of our progress here at the Sanford Laboratory Youtube Channel.

–Warren Matthews