8 August 2016 Status report of the SRT radiotelescope control software: the DISCOS project
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The Sardinia Radio Telescope (SRT) is a 64-m fully-steerable radio telescope. It is provided with an active surface to correct for gravitational deformations, allowing observations from 300 MHz to 100 GHz. At present, three receivers are available: a coaxial LP-band receiver (305-410 MHz and 1.5-1.8 GHz), a C-band receiver (5.7-7.7 GHz) and a 7-feed K-band receiver (18-26.5 GHz). Several back-ends are also available in order to perform the different data acquisition and analysis procedures requested by scientific projects. The design and development of the SRT control software started in 2004, and now belongs to a wider project called DISCOS (Development of the Italian Single-dish COntrol System), which provides a common infrastructure to the three Italian radio telescopes (Medicina, Noto and SRT dishes). DISCOS is based on the Alma Common Software (ACS) framework, and currently consists of more than 500k lines of code. It is organized in a common core and three specific product lines, one for each telescope. Recent developments, carried out after the conclusion of the technical commissioning of the instrument (October 2013), consisted in the addition of several new features in many parts of the observing pipeline, spanning from the motion control to the digital back-ends for data acquisition and data formatting; we brie y describe such improvements. More importantly, in the last two years we have supported the astronomical validation of the SRT radio telescope, leading to the opening of the first public call for proposals in late 2015. During this period, while assisting both the engineering and the scientific staff, we massively employed the control software and were able to test all of its features: in this process we received our first feedback from the users and we could verify how the system performed in a real-life scenario, drawing the first conclusions about the overall system stability and performance. We examine how the system behaves in terms of network load and system load, how it reacts to failures and errors, and what components and services seem to be the most critical parts of our architecture, showing how the ACS framework impacts on these aspects. Moreover, the exposure to public utilization has highlighted the major flaws in our development and software management process, which had to be tuned and improved in order to achieve faster release cycles in response to user feedback, and safer deploy operations. In this regard we show how the introduction of testing practices, along with continuous integration, helped us to meet higher quality standards. Having identified the most critical aspects of our software, we conclude showing our intentions for the future development of DISCOS, both in terms of software features and software infrastructures.
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A. Orlati, M. Bartolini, M. Buttu, A. Fara, C. Migoni, S. Poppi, S. Righini, "Status report of the SRT radiotelescope control software: the DISCOS project", Proc. SPIE 9913, Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy IV, 991310 (8 August 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2232581; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2232581

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