Boost to Big Data Industry as NZ Makes one of the Biggest Investments Ever


New Zealand is investing $380,000 into a big data project which will support the largest radio telescope in the world. The largest scientific venture ever taken is expected to boost New Zealand’s burgeoning big data industry significantly. In addition to the $380,000 coming from the Catalyst Fund managed by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, the government has already spent $2 million on the same project.

The development is being undertaken jointly by New Zealand’s Nyriad Limited and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Western Australia (ICRAR). The recent funding comes in response to a request by the government of Australia to support the development and testing of an operating system to manage huge amounts of data in real time.

Although New Zealand missed out on hosting part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) infrastructure, it is one of the 10 countries playing a key role in the development of the vast radio telescope network in the deserts of South Africa and Australia.

In addition to financially supporting the project, New Zealand is contributing a large team of university researchers and scientists to participate in designing a science data processor intended to combine the processing power of 100 million computers. The super computer is intended to handle the huge amount of data that SKA dishes are expected to produce in the range of 10 times the amount of today’s global internet traffic. The amount of data SKA will produce in a single day would take close to two million years to play back on an iPod.

The SKA telescope is expected to become operational in the 2020s and will help create data images that will allow scientists to see back to the early stages of the universe.

Part of the project work involves the development of cutting edge computer nodes, software and algorithms to make sure that the supercomputer will effectively handle the unprecedented data rates. According to the science and innovation minister, Paul Goldsmith, there is currently no supercomputer system that can handle the data that SKA is expected to generate. As such, the main aim of the project is to solve the high performance computing challenges of the future.    

Nyriad Limited is based in Cambridge and specializes in high performance computing and advanced data storage solutions for big data. The company has developed pioneering technology for data processing and storage on Graphic Processing Units. On its part, ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia and is funded by the government of the state of Western Australia.

The project intends to test Nyriad’s technology using data and hardware from the Murchison Widefield Array which is a precursor telescope to the SKA in Western Australia.