NIF enables rapid, uninterrupted access to critical data to accelerate groundbreaking discoveries.


60 hours per year

Reduction in planned downtime

National Ignition Facility (NIF)

Accelerating groundbreaking discoveries with a private cloud.

Science fiction is becoming reality at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where researchers are closing in on harnessing the power of thermonuclear fusion. Using hydrogen atoms and a laser 100 times more energetic than any other laser in the world, NIF scientists can create conditions on Earth that once existed only in the center of the stars.

To create thermonuclear fusion, the energy of 192 separate laser beams is focused to fuse together hydrogen atoms, producing helium and a massive amount of energy. For decades, fusion had been considered the stuff of science fiction, but in early 2014, NIF made headlines when it formally announced that record amounts of energy had been created through fusion.

Fusion is just one of many experiments taking place at NIF, which was built to sustain three missions: nuclear stockpile stewardship, energy science, and “basic” sciences such as experimental astronomy and astrophysics. Massive quantities of data are essential to the success of these experiments, from experimental design to experiment execution and analysis.

Before the laser can ever be fired, NIF’s computer control system must coordinate more than 60,000 control points, including motorized mirrors and lenses, energy and power sensors, video cameras, laser amplifiers, pulse power, and diagnostic instruments. That’s 60,000 parameters that must be set with high precision.

With a private cloud based on NetApp running clustered Data ONTAP, NIF has reduced planned and unplanned downtime, reclaiming up to 60 hours of downtime per year for science and preventing costly delays. “We’re a unique facility, so if there’s a problem, we delay schedules that were made years in advance. Clustered Data ONTAP gives us the ability to add compute capacity for scientists when they need it and work on portions of our infrastructure without any disruption to workload,” says Frazier.

The performance and reliability of its IT infrastructure are enabling NIF to operate at the speed of light in pursuit of discoveries that will enhance national security and also increase our knowledge of the universe and solve some of the world’s most critical challenges. As NIF continues to pursue the goal of creating controlled thermonuclear ignition in a laboratory, scientists aren’t the only ones getting excited.

“For me, it’s all about working on something that can make a difference to our nation and also our civilization—on a global scale,” says Frazier. “NetApp has been a part of the NIF story since the beginning and understands the importance of our mission.”

About this Customer


The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is home to a laser that is over 100 times more energetic than any previous laser system. Scientists at the Livermore, California facility are working on improving our national security, understanding the universe, and developing the science for providing renewable energy sources for the future.

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