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SKA telescope project spurs Kiwi big data breakthrough

SKA telescope project spurs Kiwi big data breakthrough

New Zealand company combines data processing and storage on the GPU

An artist's impression of dishes that will make up the SKA radio telescope. (Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/SKA Program Development Office)

An artist's impression of dishes that will make up the SKA radio telescope. (Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/SKA Program Development Office)

In 2021 the largest IT project in the world will be switched on to service the huge amounts of data flowing from the completed Square Kilometer Array radio telescope.

But that creates a new problem, how to store, process and analyse astronomical volumes of data beyond the capabilities of any current supercomputer.

A New Zealand-based firm is claiming a breakthrough, and one that has much broader implications for IT and big data systems.

Start-up Nyriad is working with ICRAR, the International Centre of Radio Astronomy Research, based in Perth, to quantify the performance and efficiency of a new approach called “storage-processing".

The system performs data processing and storage together on graphics processing units (GPUs) to reduce unnecessary data movement.

“With Nyriad’s storage architecture we can carry out very high performance computing while keeping data secured and checked at all times," said Andreas Wicenec, who leads ICRAR’s Data Intensive Astronomy Programme.

"This can be achieved with a lot less overhead, redundant storage hardware, and thus costs, than using traditional high performance computing (HPC) storage and access technologies.

Nyriad was formed in 2014 after New Zealand serial-inventor Matthew Simmons and American GPU-computing pioneer Alex St. John, best known for his early work on gaming and creating the DirectX media platform at Microsoft in the early 1990’s, realised they lived in the same small town.

Nyriad now claims a team of over 50 engineers.

“The SKA forced us to look 10 years into the future for a cost-effective and power-efficient approach to processing data at the scale and I/O speed not possible in current big data analytics or high performance computing (HPC)," Nyriad CEO Matthew Simmons said.

“The full impact of this faster, more efficient operating system will really become evident once the entire system is up and running in our next project with Nyriad,” said Wicenec.

Nyriad said it is working with several global IT companies to commercialise the technology.

According to his bio, Simmons was the inventor of dozens of signal processing technologies used by Dolby, DTS, Sony, Microsoft, Samsung, Pixar, Singtel, Park Road Post, NHK and Disney.

He was also CEO of the New Zealand Clean Energy Center and invented a high-temperature solid state heat-transfer system for Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) and Nuclear Waste.

In addition to his work on DirectX, St. John also led development of the Windows 95 and Windows NT print, video, audio, 2D and 3D graphics, color management, font system, multiplayer and input architectures.


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