Expanding South Africa's Supercomputing Infrastructure [in a big way]

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skaCarnarvon, a small South African town on the Northern Cape, is only home to 10,000 people.  It could also be home to the next South African supercomputing centre courtesy of the Square Kilometre Array [SKA] project.  The SKA is a project designed to put 3,000 to 5,000 dish radio telescopes in either South Africa or Australia.  The 1.5 billion euro project is set to get off the ground this October.

The initial design called for the telescope array to live in a remote location, far away from radio interference.  The data from the array was going to be piped to Cape Town for processing.  Apparently, this is not proving to be cost effective.

We are going to do most of the data-crunching on site because it will be too expensive to pipe the raw data down to Cape Town,” [Dr. Bernie Fanaroff, SKA project leader] says. “So we will have our science and control centre in Cape Town, but the data-crunching will take place on site.”

According to the SKA Meerkat project leader, Anita Loots, the SKA will have similar data requirements as the Large Hadron Collider experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research [CERN].  She also indicates that the 3,000 to 5,000 dishes will require two supercomputers capable of 10 Petaflops each.

As far as my knowledge goes, no proven petaflops machines exist in the world today, although the Japanese say they want to build one. So there’s still a lot to be done just to build the machines [we need to make SKA work].”

You heard it.  20 Petaflops in South Africa.  My hat goes off to the SKA project for pushing the envelope of technology.

Read the full post here.