Exclusive: SKA bid looks to SkyNet for computing

Terminating the data centre one desktop at a time

Image: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Image: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“It’s a way of making very large numbers of very discrepant and very different, very diverse data sets available to researchers in a very uniform way and allow them to be exposed so you can ask queries into a service-oriented architecture,” Quinn said. “Finally [you can see] all the data in the world that has to do with blue stars, for example. Then you can actually ask a query — ‘give me all the blue stars that are bigger than X and further away than Y’. So you can actually start doing research from these digital archives but you don’t have to know where they’re being held, or what format they’re in or what telescope they were taken with.”

Quinn said one of the key data processing concerns was providing the capacity and storage needed with minimal environmental impact.

“We really want to have a very, very Green approach to our supercomputers so we don’t have a huge power bill to deal with,” he said. “We can have probably the world’s fastest supercomputer but not generating nearly as much heat and probably as much power as today’s supercomputers do.”

Though a power usage effectiveness indicator has not been reached, he said the project would look to reach an average power use of around 10 megawatts, 10 times less than the 100 megawatt range currently used by some of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

The Australian Government committed $40.2 million to the project as part of the 2011-2012 federal budget, amounting to some $350 million in grants and funding received so far from the Western Australian and federal governments over the last three years. The latest funding round is expected to form approximately a third of the 90 million euros ($AUD120 million at time of writing) required to fund the detailed design for 10 work areas covering a spectrum of SKA satellite dish construction and accompanying materials, as well as the formation of the international project office, hosted out of Manchester in England. The rest of the funds required would be contributed from the other nine founding countries which signed an agreement earlier this year in Rome, though other governments are expected to sign on in coming months.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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