A high performance, data intensive storage service for astronomy.

Photograph of Somerville, showing a row of 6 cabinets with doors open.

The Somerville on-premises cloud platform is designed to support data-intensive use cases from survey astronomy, including very large databases (with trillions of records) and real-time data streaming and analysis. 

Enabling unprecedented research

Named in honour of Scottish mathematician and astronomer Mary Somerville, the Somerville service will support thousands of astronomers internationally to pursue their science ambitions. 

Since its initial installation in 2017, as part of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) e-Infrastructure pilot programme (now called the IRIS programme), Somerville has hosted production science services for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Wide-field Astronomy Unit. It is also used as a testbed by the Gaia satellite, which is completing a census of more than one billion stars in the Milky Way, and by STFC’s Research Cloud team. 

At the time of writing, the largest database hosted on Somerville has more than 120 billion records of astronomy observations – that is 15 records for each and every person living on Earth.

Vera C. Rubin Observatory 

The Rubin Observatory will conduct a ten-year survey of the Southern Hemisphere sky (the Legacy Survey of Space and Time, or LSST) using the world’s largest digital camera. Rubin’s science goals include understanding the nature of dark matter and dark energy, creating an inventory of the Solar System, mapping the Milky Way, and exploring objects that change position or brightness over time.

Facilitating data science 

The volume and complexity of data that Rubin will capture will challenge the capabilities of research computing worldwide. Somerville will be the host for the UK’s Rubin Independent Data Access Centre (DAC) and will connect astronomers with at least 200 Petabytes of survey products and provide advanced tooling to handle these products.

EPCC, in collaboration with the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, has a critical role in the design and operation of the UK DAC, which is due to enter operation in 2025. 


Somerville is installed at the University of Edinburgh’s Advanced Computing Facility, and managed by a joint team from EPCC and the University’s Institute of Astronomy. 

The system is built on Scientific OpenStack. This variant of the popular OpenStack toolkit has been customised by StackHPC Limited to meet research-computing capabilities.


1,984 (virtualised) CPU cores.

Interconnect technologies

100 G Ethernet data network

2 x 100 G uplink into JANET.

System storage 

2 PB of Ceph storage for holding scientific data

100 TB of NVMe-based Ceph storage.

Rubin Independent Data Access Centre

The Rubin Independent Data Access Centre (DAC) provides three different user interfaces to LSST: 

  • A web-based science portal for interactive enquiries
  • A notebook-based engine for more substantial and scripted analysis workflows
  • An HPC/batch interface for the most ambitious and computationally intensive research campaigns.

These interfaces are backed by custom services, engineered within the Rubin project to the requirements of the survey. They include a bespoke distributed database system called Qserv, able to serve LSST catalogues containing hundreds of billions of objects and to satisfy the demands of hundreds of concurrent queries.


Somerville is funded by STFC via the LSST:UK and IRIS programmes.

Further information

Rubin Observatory

Wide Field Astronomy Unit





To access Somerville, please see: