On 17 November 2015, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between IDIA (South Africa) and the Dutch partners - ASTRON and IBM-Dome.
The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, attended the signing of the MoU as part of a visit by the Dutch trade delegation to South Africa, which comprised representatives from 75 companies.
The MoU supports an agreement to collaborate on the development of the Precursor Regional Science Data Centres (RSDCs) for the SKA. RSDCs will be an essential part of the international SKA project, and will support global collaboration on SKA projects, which will invariably require the development and deployment of scalable big data solutions. The Precursor RSDCs are an essential part of the development of SKA data centres.
“The initial focus of the centres will be to service the current and future data archiving, distribution and science exploration needs of the MeerKAT and LOFAR radio telescopes in SA and The Netherlands, respectively,” said Dr Jasper Horrell, the General Manager for Science Computing and Innovation at the SKA-SA.
The current MoU sets the stage for the prototyping of the RSDCs based upon the requirements of the SKA pathfinders - LOFAR (NL) and MeerKAT (SA). The Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) is currently operating in The Netherlands and produces an enormously large data volume, which presents a challenge for data transport, processing and storage. The South African MeerKAT telescope will embark on a series of large surveys, each of which will produce petabytes of raw data.
“We assume that there will be at least two astronomy-focused sites, one each in South Africa and Netherlands,” said Prof. Russ Taylor, the Director of IDIA.
The MoU provides the vehicle for South African (IDIA/SKA-SA) and Dutch (ASTRON/IBM-Dome) partners to collaborate on policies, specifications, test-cases, proof-of-concepts and best-practices that will enable researchers to develop models for the efficient handling and exploration of the large quantity of data, based on LOFAR and MeerKAT. These models will be an essential step in developing the necessary expertise for the SKA Regional Data Centres.