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By | Timothy Prickett Morgan 6th April 2010 20:53

US energy czars plunk Netezza into super lab

Smart grids need business intelligence

Netezza will supply a hefty data warehousing and analytics appliance to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) as part of a $178m smart-grid project being funded by the US Department of Energy.

Netezza's TwinFin will help PNNL manage and analyze data culled from 60,000 customers in five states as they burn 112 megawatts of juice running all of their electronic gadgets. The PNNL-bound configuration is a TwinFin 12 appliance, which is a single-rack machine with twelve hybrid x64-FPGA twin S-Blades working on up to 32TB of uncompressed user data.

PNNL, in Richland, Washington, was one the biggest beneficiaries of $620m in funding for 32 smart-grid and energy-storage projects that the DOE announced back in November. Of the 32 projects, 16 soaked up $435m for smart-grid demonstrations spanning 21 states and 50 different utilities with a combined customer base of nearly 100 million people.

The PNNL project, which includes energy producers and distributors, research labs, and various technology partners, will be a smart-grid pilot covering 60,000 households across Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. About half of the project will be funded through the Obama administration's $787bn stimulus package, dubbed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has been used to fund supercomputing projects that include green data centers, cloud computing, 100 Gigabit Ethernet, rural broadband and Wi-Fi internet access, and more.

PNNL has worked with Netezza before. Last year, the lab used Netezza appliances as a kind of super intrusion-detection system, scanning perimeter data coming in from emails, internet searches, data transfers, and thousands of other ports of entry to perform a kind of proactive port scanning against hackers who use port scanning to try to gain entry into the network.

Netezza has multiple appliances at PNNL as well as multiple machines at its sister DOE facilities: Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, both in California. The supercomputer center at the University of Buffalo, part of the State University of New York system, also has Netezza appliances sitting side-by-side with regular HPC clusters, helping to sift patterns from data. ®

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