Going where no machine has gone before
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is expected to be the largest optical telescope in the world. When completed in 2030, it will have a thirty meter diameter objective mirror and produce images with an angular resolution twelve times higher than the legendary Hubble Space Telescope at similar light. The multi-billion dollar project is a quantum leap from current telescopes in size, technology and innovativeness.
This giant telescope will observe the universe using a wide light spectrum – from deep red to extreme violet. Astronomers hope to use the insights TMT provides to answer fundamental questions about everything, from life in the universe, to exoplanets, to the physics of black holes.
Taking a quantum leap to pioneer innovation
The Project Office of TMT in Pasadena, Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengaluru, and Thoughtworks have collaborated to develop TMT’s observatory software system – in effect building the world’s largest optical telescope that will help solve the mysteries of the universe.
The pioneering project team effectively predicted TMT’s future requirements; building a system without customer feedback as it had no immediate user. This analysis also helped translate the requirement for the Thoughtworks software development team who were new to astronomical control systems.
Making software for the next 50 years
Thoughtworks’ delivery track record and technical expertise were instrumental in the design, development, delivery and current maintenance of TMT’s Common Software (CSW) and Executive Software (ESW) systems. Additionally, TMT’s Data Management System’s (DMS) prototyping is complete.
The CSW or backbone of TMT’s Observatory Software Architecture is a package of services and software infrastructure components that integrates TMT software systems and provides an interface for observatory-wide configuration, command, control, status reporting and data management.
The experience of the TMT Project Observatory Software team with the Thoughtworks team has been outstanding. The development of our Common Software subsystem has been just successfully concluded, and we are very happy with the results. It’s hard to imagine a better long-distance relationship. Everyone on the team is knowledgeable, motivated, and committed to producing a high-quality product that meets TMT’s functional and performance requirements. The word “team” accurately describes our relationship. TMT Observatory Software is looking forward to a continuing long-term relationship with Thoughtworks.
At its core, the Observatory Execution Software Architecture is the Executive Software (ESW) subsystem - akin to a central engine that synchronizes the TMT subsystems’ operations. The ESW and the CSW work together to accept and execute all critical information read by the telescope, regarding the target of observation, system configuration and necessary workflow information.
As well as developing the components for the software and systems-interface, Thoughtworks-built a DMS that captures the science and engineering information of all the events occurring in the TMT software systems. Each event is captured, time stamped, described, accessed, stored, visualized and then archived. This metadata is used for troubleshooting, gathering background information for specific observation requirements, etc.
Nature of partnership
For Thoughtworks, the partnership quickly evolved from prototyping to development. The global technology consultant used a modern tech stack and open source tech for the build that was also adopted by the rest of the TMT teams.This approach set the right expectations around evolving tech choices, and provided stakeholders with deeper insights on the project.
What was unique about Thoughtworks delivery?
Modern tech stack
Technology support for big data futuristic science project
Unique scientific domain with high impact on human understanding on a global level
Participating in the development and deployment of open source software
Anticipating and analyzing future requirements developing a modern, fully tested platform and enabling a multi-billion dollar scientific project
In figure: SOSS - Science Operations Support System, OCS - Observatory Control System, CIS - Communication and Infomration System
TMT is one of those very few big data, high stake science projects of the future. The experience of developing software architecture and multiple software systems for such a project can be very valuable consulting especially on the upcoming large science projects in scientific fields like bioinformatics, genomics and drug discovery. Processing big data at high speed and efficiency is a challenge not only in the scientific domain today but also in other business domains. Thoughtworks' experience in developing software for big science projects will prove useful in the near future.
India-TMT and the TMT project office have been working with Thoughtworks for more than two years, as part of the project aimed at developing a crucial component of the Observatory Software for TMT. The development of the Common Software is completed and went extremely well. This has been appreciated within the project, as well as by all the stakeholders. All the three parties (ITCC, PO and Thoughtworks) have been working together as a single team, though they were distributed across five different locations, in different parts of the world. The Thoughtworks team feels like an extension of the India-TMT software team. I look forward to working with the Thoughtworks team in the coming years for the development of the Observatory software.