Tuesday, April 03, 2012

#SPACE: "Big Bang Meet Big Data"

The world's largest telescope array aims to view backward in time, to the origin of the universe just after the Big Bang, using Big Data analytics to reveal its secrets from daily data streams that are twice as big as all the traffic on the entire Internet combined.

"We have never had to process this much data before," said Ton Engbersen, a scientist at IBM Research, Zurich. "But every business in the future will have to process data on the exascale, and that is why we are preparing the technologies to process it all today."

The $42.5 million Dome project by IBM's Center for Exascale Technology (Zurich) and Astron--the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (Drenthe, the Netherlands) will analyze the data streaming from a square-kilometer worth of radio telescope comprised of thousands of smaller disks spread over a 3000 kilometer wide area to be constructed in Australia or South Africa. The world's largest radio telescope will be turned on in 2024, giving the Dome project adequate time to perfect the 3D exascale computing power needed to analyze the vast amount of data streaming in from its detectors. IBM has previously cooperated with Astron to design the high-performance ultra-low-power microchip technologies already used in the Blue Gene supercomputers that currently analyze data streaming from Astron's low-frequency (Lofar) "software telescope" located in the northern regions of the Netherlands.

Big Data analytics on exabyte (billion gigabyte) data streams will use gigantic processor arrays equivalent to a million supercomputers enabled by IBM 3D chip stacks with embedded liquid cooling. (Source: IBM)

Besides 3D computing cores, the Dome project will also develop optical data transport mechanisms based on nanophotonics and novel phase-change memory storage units the likes of which humankind has never seen before. To keep the intense heat generated by the processors from melting down the computers, IBM will develop new cooling technologies that pump water through chips like a automobile radiator.

The streaming Big Data analytics will require new learning algorithms that model the human mind, but multiply its power astronomically. The new computing frontiers opened up by the project will also have profound ramifications on IBM's earthbound Smart Planet projects that can profit from the technologies created by Dome.

Funding will be provided by the Province of Drenthe, the Netherlands, and from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I). Astronomers from more than 20 countries will cooperate in building the a radio telescope 50-times more powerful and 10,000 times faster than any today by combining millions of antennas spread out over the width of the continental United States. The post-processed data, after analytics, will need housing in advanced tape-based memory units capable of storing exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data per year. Ω