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IBM Helps Push The Boundaries Of Data Management For One Of The World’s Biggest Science Projects

The Square Kilometre Array telescope will generate more data in one hour than the World Wide Web

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Perth, Australia - 17 Sep 2009: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced it will partner with Western Australia’s International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) on the technology needed to manage the vast amounts of data produced by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope project. When constructed, the SKA telescope will be one of the world’s largest scientific instruments.

This extremely powerful survey telescope, 50 times more sensitive than current instruments, will use approximately 3,600 antennas spread over thousands of kilometres to peer into deep space. The SKA will capture data on the evolution of galaxies, dark matter and energy, providing insight into the origins of the universe around 13 billion years ago.

According to Western Australian Minister for Commerce, Troy Buswell, once operational, the levels of data produced by the SKA will be bigger than any other research project in the world. “In its first hour alone, the SKA will generate more information than is currently held in the entire World Wide Web,” he explained.

ICRAR and IBM will collaborate to research and develop systems that transfer, manage, process and store this unprecedented amount of continuous and unstructured radio astronomical data. In doing so, they will push the boundaries of data management. SKA will require the computing power equivalent of a billion PCs and manage information flows of one Exabyte of data per day – the equivalent of one thousand million 1Gb memory sticks each day.

Managing Director of IBM Australia and New Zealand, Glen Boreham, said the company was keen to provide practical support to Australia’s scientific community and research efforts.

“IBM is delighted to be contributing to what will be one of the largest science instruments on the planet. The technical challenges presented by SKA's computation and data requirements are exactly the sort of technology problems that IBM excels at solving,” Mr Boreham said.

“As a company focused on collaborating with leading experts around the world, this is an inspiring project for our technical community to work on, and will drive our technology and capability at scales many times those found in usual commercial environments,” he added.

The collaboration will bring IBM’s local and global expertise in computation, storage and algorithms to work with ICRAR on the challenging technical and engineering issues associated with the science archive and post-processing systems for SKA.

According to Premier’s Research Fellow and ICRAR Director Professor Peter Quinn:

“This task will involve developing concepts for technology that, before the SKA, had never been needed. IBM is a world-leader in the field of technology development and its knowledge and expertise will help ICRAR to research and develop appropriate tools to stream the colossal amounts of data at the speed the SKA demands.”



ICRAR (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research) is an equal joint venture between Curtin University of Technology and the University of Western Australia. The Western Australian Government has committed $20 million towards the centre’s establishment.


About SKA

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a next-generation radio telescope that will be vastly more sensitive than the best present day instruments. It will give astronomers remarkable insights into the formation of the early universe including the emergence of the first stars, galaxies and other structures. It will comprise a vast array of antennas spread over more than 3,000 kilometres.

The SKA will either be built in Australia and New Zealand or in Southern Africa, with this decision to be made around 2012.

As part of the preparatory engineering and research for SKA a number of “Pathfinder” projects have been defined. In Australia, CSIRO – through its Australia Telescope National Facility – is leading the development of the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP). ASKAP will be a 1% ‘demonstrator’ of SKA technology and capability, comprising a 36-dish telescope located at Boolardy, 300km from Geraldton, WA.


About IBM’s contribution to science

IBM has a long history of contributing to humankind's exploration of space and science, including helping to launch some of the world’s first satellites and building the computing systems that helped Apollo 11 astronauts make the first manned landing on the Moon. IBM Research is a prolific commercial lab, with five Nobel Prize winners and 16 years of US patent leadership. IBM Research is engaged in collaboration with many public and private researchers around the world to better understand and address some of the biggest issues of our time.

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