The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is using Isilon IQ clustered storage to power World Wind, an open source, virtual globe enabling online users to explore the Earth and its terrain through visually rich, high resolution 3D imagery. This is similar to Google Earth but with additional scientific information.

Leveraging processed Landsat 7 satellite imagery and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data, NASA World Wind enables users to zoom from satellite altitude into any place on Earth, providing an eye-level view of the Earth’s surface.

The World Wind software downloadable from NASA, also provides rich 3D imagery of the surfaces of Venus, Mars and Jupiter plus the stars around us. Each data set allows viewers to zoom into surface detail of the planets or star details of the Milky Way

Using Isilon IQ, powered by Isilon's OneFS operating system software, World Wind has consolidated more than 8,000 large Landsat 7 satellite images into one single volume and single file system and global namespace, providing high performance and concurrent access to i-cubed for geoprocessing applications, as well as to World Wind’s own technicians for seamless staging and fast online 24x7 delivery of the processed imagery.

To achieve this compelling user experience, World Wind works with i-cubed, a geoprocessing service organization in Colorado, to perform the complex geoprocessing required to convert raw satellite data into rich, high resolution imagery of the Earth’s terrain, which is then returned to World Wind for integration into their Microsoft .NET-based application, staging and online delivery.

Isilon’s clustered storage provided i-cubed’s advanced geoprocessing applications with the high concurrent throughput necessary to transform World Wind’s original Landsat 7 images into the high resolution visuals of Earth, and then return the processed imagery to NASA World Wind for online delivery.

Prior to adopting Isilon IQ, World Wind’s traditional storage limited i-cubed’s processing applications and added unneeded complexity and time to World Wind’s workflow, making it difficult for World Wind to efficiently process the Landsat 7 data and slowing the availability of high resolution, processed imagery to users.

“By using a vast collection of processed satellite imagery, NASA World Wind enables anyone with Internet access to experience anyplace on Earth as if they were really there,” said Patrick Hogan, Project Manager, NASA World Wind. (He doesn’t mention Google Earth at all.) “To ensure that our online user’s experience is seamless and compelling, we require storage that delivers high concurrent performance for processing the raw satellite data, as well as immediate, reliable access for fast online delivery.”

Through its use of Isilon IQ clustered storage, NASA World Wind has been able to meet and exceed its storage needs while also simplifying its workflow and shortening time-to-results.

“Landsat 7 satellite images offer a unique combination of resolution and coverage which make them an excellent fit for rich, 3D, global visualization applications such as World Wind,” said Mick Garrett, Chief Technical Officer, i-cubed. “Isilon clustered storage provided the high concurrent performance and immediate data access we required to complete the World Wind data set processing.”

“The data-intensive nature of imagery, coupled with the throughput demands of parallel processing across more than 150 CPU’s, required the type of scalability and performance that Isilon provided. The Isilon IQ cluster enabled us to complete the data set and deliver it back to World Wind in record time, and Isilon support throughout the project was absolutely first rate.”

“NASA World Wind offers a groundbreaking opportunity for everyone to view the Earth’s terrain in a manner previously available only to scientists and researchers, thereby enabling our educational, business, and online communities to better understand our planet and its global resources,” said Brett Goodwin, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Isilon Systems. “Isilon IQ ultimately provides the high performance and immediate data access World Wind and i-cubed need to transform Landsat 7’s satellite data into visual imaging breakthroughs for the world to see – capabilities that traditional storage systems just can’t provide.”

In use World Wind is not as fast as Google Earth nor does it contain so much everyday information or link to a mapping service. However it does have information that Google Earth does not have, such as real time weather, and it provides coverage of three planets and the stars around the solar system. The speed lack is possibly down to the Microsoft .NET infrastructure rather than Isilon's storage. Until there is some kind of benchmark comparison available though, between Google's disk storage infrastructure and Ision's clustered storage we won't know for sure.

What we do know is that you can buy Isilon IQ clusters today. You can't buy Google's infrastructure, not for the Earth.