updated 11:30 am EDT, Mon April 2, 2012
IBM, ASTRON join forces on ultimate supercomputer
A newly announced collaboration between ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and IBM aims to research the world's most powerful exascale supercomputer to study space. Once built, the supercomputer will be used in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is an effort to build the largest and most sensitive radio telescope that will involve millions of antennas to be built across 3,000 kilometers (about 1,860 miles), likely to be in Australia or South Africa and due to be completed by 2024. The joint effort, dubbed DOME, will initially span over five years and represents a 32.9 million euro ($43.8 million) investment.
DOME is the protective cover on telescopes and after the Swiss mountain. The necessary processing power for the telescope will equal several millions of today's fastest computers, according to scientist estimates. A newly created ASTRON & IBM Center for Exascale Technology is based in Drenthe, the Netherlands, where the research will be done.
Every day, the SKA will collect data equivalent to twice of the current daily Internet traffic, or a few Exabytes of data. To collect, transfer, and process this data, emerging technologies that are leagues beyond current state-of-the-art technology need to be developed. The supercomputer will need to be efficient as well, and researchers will look at 3D stacked chips and advanced accelerators to this end. For speeding up transfers, they will research new optical interconnect technologies and nanophotonics. The high-performance storage systems will be based on next-generation tape systems and phase-change memory technologies.
Annually, between 300 and 1,500 petabytes of data needs to be stored. In contrast, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN produces about 15 petabytes per year.