University loses 77TB of research data due to backup error

University loses 77TB of research data due to backup error

The Kyoto University in Japan has lost about 77TB of research data due to an error in the backup system of its Hewlett-Packard supercomputer.

The incident occurred between December 14 and 16, 2021, and resulted in 34 million files from 14 research groups being wiped from the system and the backup file.

After investigating to determine the impact of the loss, the university concluded that the work of four of the affected groups could no longer be restored.

All affected users have been individually notified of the incident via email, but no details were published on the type of work that was lost.

At the moment, the backup process has been stopped. To prevent data loss from happening again, the university has scraped the backup system and plans to apply improvements and re-introduce it in January 2022.

The plan is to also keep incremental backups – which cover files that have been changed since the last backup happened – in addition to full backup mirrors.

Supercomputing is expensive

While the details of the type of data that was lost weren’t revealed to the public, supercomputer research costs several hundreds of USD per hour, so this incident must have caused distress to the affected groups.

Kyoto's supercomputer cluster
Kyoto University supercomputer cluster
Source: Kyoto University

The Kyoto University is considered one of Japan’s most important research institutions and enjoys the second-largest scientific research investments from national grants.

Its research excellence and importance is particularly distinctive in the area of chemistry, where it ranks fourth in the world, while it also contributes to biology, pharmacology, immunology, material science, and physics.

We have requested Kyoto University to share more details on the incident and its impact on research groups, but we haven’t heard back yet.

Japan leading the field

Japan happens to have the most powerful supercomputer in the world at the moment, called “Fugaku”, operated by the Riken Center for Computational Science, in Kobe.

Fugaku is an exascale system made by Fujitsu, capable of computational performance of 442 PFLOPS. The second in the global list, IBM’s “Summit”, can reach a much smaller figure of 148 PFLOPS.

Fugaku cost $1.2 billion to build and has so far been used for research on COVID-19, diagnostics, therapeutics, and virus spread simulations.