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Replacing the LOFAR station Control Units (LCUs)

Submitter: Arno Schoenmakers
Description: The oldest LOFAR stations have been operational since end2009/early 2010. These stations still use the original server control systems which are therefore more than 6 six years old by now. Therefore, a replacement project was started at the end of 2015 with sufficient budget to purchase 55 new server systems and ensure careful preparation and execution of the replacement. We decided to upgrade to a much newer 64-bit OS and to upgrade the WinCC station monitoring software, as well.

The systems were ordered and delivered in the first half of 2016. Initial testing of the new systems with all required software modifications started in the LOFAR test lab in Dwingeloo early July. Finally, a first test with a new LCU in a real LOFAR station, CS302, was started on Sep 30th. Meanwhile, plans were made for the replacement campaign itself. The intention was to keep telescope downtime to a minimum.

All systems had been prepared by Reinoud Bokhorst and Teun Grit in the basement of the ASTRON building using the powerful combination of XCAT and Ansible. Then, on Nov 15th, we had four teams of 2 persons each in the field: Teun Grit, Klaas Stuurwold, Jan Pieter de Reijer, Peter Gruppen, Lute van de Bult, Henri Meulman, Menno Norden en Richard Blaauw. On this grey and rainy morning, they succeeded in replacing the LCUs in all Core Stations and a fair fraction of the Remote stations. The following day, the remaining remote stations were visited. While the people in the field were doing the hard labour, Arno Schoenmakers quickly checked each system after replacement and took care to finish the setup and configuration from the LOFAR control room. We finished well in time for the upcoming observations of that night and the new systems have been working flawlessly ever since.

We also need to replace the LCUs at the international stations. All systems for these stations have been prepared and shipped to our international partner institutes who will do the replacement with their own staff. We agreed with all international stations to replace the LCUs on Dec 6th.

The slides show some impressions of the preparations in the ASTRON basement, the work done in the fields and the shipment of LCUs for the international stations. The LCU replacement campaign has been a great success so far, thanks to many people involved over the duration of this project.
Copyright: ASTRON
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