The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have partnered to launch the ‘AstroCompute in the Cloud’ grant programme to attract innovative tools and techniques to process, store and analyse the global astronomy community’s vast amounts of astronomic data in the cloud.
The cloud computing grant programme aimed to stimulate innovators to develop cloud-based solutions to mitigate the massive data output – expected to be several times the global Internet traffic – from the “big data” science project spanning Africa and Australia.
"With the SKA, we will be generating more data than the entire Internet traffic at any single time. So we are looking into innovative cloud solutions to help us cope with never-before-seen volumes of data, using techniques that are yet to be invented,” SKA Organisation architect and grant administrator Tim Cornwell said on Tuesday.
The first phase of the SKA project would see the construction of two telescopes, one containing more than 100 000 low-frequency antennas and the other boasting around 200 large dishes.
Supercomputers would be used to convert the continuous and rapidly flowing raw data from the telescopes into a “useable form”.
“The computing needs of the SKA and its pathfinder and precursor facilities present some problems that are unique to radio astronomy, but others are common with other big data and high-performance computing applications,” said SKA South Africa associate director Justin Jonas.
Cornwell believed there would be potential spin-offs benefiting society from the fundamental research linked to computing, citing the creation of the World Wide Web.
“Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, realised very early they would face a challenge to distribute the amount of data from their experiments to physicists around the world. To solve it, they created the World Wide Web. SKA is the next step,” he said.
The grant recipients would have access to credits for AWS cloud services over a two-year period and up to one petabyte of storage for data contributed by SKA partners, which AWS would make available as a public dataset.