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Big Bang Meets Big Data: South Africa Joins ASTRON And IBM To Build The Foundation For A New Era Of Computing

PRETORIA, South Africa, March 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Square Kilometer Array (SKA) South Africa, a business unit of the country's National Research Foundation is joining ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and IBM (NYSE: IBM) in a four-year collaboration to research extremely fast, but low-power exascale computer systems aimed at developing advanced technologies for handling the massive amount of data that will be produced by the SKA, which is one of the most ambitious science projects ever undertaken. 


The SKA is an international effort to build the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope, which is to be located in Southern Africa and Australia to help better understand the history of the universe. The project constitutes the ultimate Big Data challenge, and scientists must produce major advances in computing to deal with it. The impact of those advances will be felt far beyond the SKA project—helping to usher in a new era of computing, which IBM calls the era of cognitive systems.



When the SKA is completed, it will collect Big Data from deep space containing information dating back to the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago. The aperture arrays and dishes of the SKA will produce 10 times the global internet traffic*, but the power to process all of this data as it is collected far exceeds the capabilities of the current state-of-the-art technology.

As part of the global effort to solve this unprecedented challenge, last year, ASTRON and IBM launched a public-private partnership called DOME, to develop a fundamental IT roadmap for the SKA. The collaboration includes a user platform where organizations from around the world can jointly investigate emerging technologies in high-performance, energy-efficient computing, nanophotonics, and data streaming. Through its SKA South Africa unit, the National Research Foundation is now a user platform partner in DOME.

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