Just three months after Microsoft released its data management and business intelligence platform, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, several large customers are using the database software to scale new heights in data warehousing and transaction processing.
Perhaps the most impressive application of SQL Server so far — and one of the most dramatic — is the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS for short, a wide-field celestial imaging facility being built at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy. Its architects plan to photograph the entire available sky several times each month, trying to discover asteroids and comets that could pose a danger to Earth. The huge volume of images produced by this system will no doubt also prove valuable for many other scientific programs.
When Pan-STARRS is fully operational, it will have four telescopes, each with a digital camera capable of 1.4-gigapixel resolution. With just one telescope in operation so far, the facility already generates 1.4 terabytes of image data per night. For the longer term, its architects are installing 1.1 petabytes (quadrillion bytes) of disk storage. Although Pan-STARRS won’t use up all of that storage right away, it will still rank as one of the world’s largest databases.