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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

"The DOME collaboration brings together a dream team of scientists and engineers in an exciting partnership of public and private institutions. This project lays the foundation to help the scientific community solve other data challenges such as climate change, genetic information and personal medical data," said Simon Ratcliffe, Technical Coordinator, DOME-South Africa.

Scientists from all three organizations will collaborate remotely and at the newly established ASTRON & IBM Center for Exascale Technology in Drenthe, the Netherlands.

More specifically, scientists from SKA South Africa will focus on the following research themes:

  • Visualizing the challenge -- fundamental research will be conducted into signal processing and advanced computing algorithms for the capture, processing, and analysis of the SKA data so clear images can be produced for astronomers to study;
  • Desert-proof technology -- the DOME team is researching and prototyping microserver architectures based on liquid-cooled 3D stacked chips. The team in South Africa will extend this research to make the microservers rugged or "desert proof" to handle the extreme environmental conditions where the SKA will be located; and
  • Software analytics -- the 64 dishes of the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa will be used for the testing and development of a sophisticated software program that will aid in the design of the entire computing system holistically and optimally—taking into account all of the cost and performance trade-offs for the eventual 3,000 SKA dishes.

"The DOME research has implications far beyond astronomy. These scientific advances will help build the foundation for a new era of computing, providing technologies that learn and reason. Ultimately, these cognitive technologies will help to transform entire industries, including healthcare and finance," said Dr. Ton Engbersen, DOME project leader, IBM Research. "For example, we are designing a system for storing information that learns from its interactions with the data and parcels it out in real time to the storage medium that's most appropriate for each bit, which can also be applied to medical images."

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