Square Kilometre Array Project 2016/17

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Physics


This is a request for additional funds for industrial engagement for the SKA Science Data Processor Work led from Cambridge. The objective is to construct a prototype of the hardware and middleware architecture for the SDP. The prototype will be based of course on current architecture but will test a number of critical elements of the design in particular the crucial element of multiple Data Islands each with their own shared file system but no global file system. The prototype will also include prototyping of middleware layers based on OpenStack.

Planned Impact

The SKA is a major new global astronomy facility. It will be operated as an observatory with time awarded via competitive application for observing time. At the same time, the SKA project is a major technical challenge especially within the area of High-performance computing, "Big Data" technologies and energy efficient computing.

The output of the work to be supported by the application will be detailed design and prototyping work for the SKA through to Critical Design review. The delivery of the SKA itself which will follow from this design work will benefit the full academic astronomy community within the partner countries and more widely. In addition the key science goals for the instrument are at the core of modern cosmology and physics and the results will have significant impact beyond the astronomical community both within scientific community more widely but also to Society via our better understanding of the Universe and fundamental physics. We note in particular that SKA phase 1 will provide un-paralled views of the Epoch of deionisation when the first objects form and studies of pulsars within our Galaxy will enable theories of gravity to be tested in extreme conditions and detection of the expected stochastic background of gravitational waves. The UK leadership in key design areas will ensure the UK astronomical community is ideally placed to maximise return from the SKA when operational.

The design work will also have a much wider impact. The SKA is widely recognised as the next BigData challenge within science. As such the required design is pushing the boundaries of those technologies needed to process, analyse and store streaming data. These technologies are critical to the SKA, but are also of wide and general applicability across a broad range of market sectors from standard Data Centres to the analysis and management of data from sensor networks such as those associated with Smart Cities. Via collaboration with major industry partners in the ICT sector and the targeted contracts to be managed as part of this work, the design work to be undertaken will have much wider applicability across the IT market sector. In particular the SKA acts as a single point of focus for many companies both in terms of their own development work, but also as a project for wider collaboration within the sector. In these ways the ICT sector will be a direct beneficiary of the SKA design work. Areas where IP is likely to be developed as part of the design work include new software for file and object stress, new software management layers for Data Centres/HPC facilities especially for BigData challenges, new tools for data management, new analytical approaches for BigData. For these beneficiaries we foresee that the impact may occur in a a number of ways:
1. IP will be developed via this work either jointly or within the industry partners. The IP arrangements in place enable industry partners to exploit this IP while retaining necessary rites for the delivery of the SKA. If the IP is jointly developed appropriate sharing of the results of the impact will be put in place following standard procedures established via Cambridge Enterprise.
2. The SKA design work will provide a focus for some industry partners to develop modified or new products and services which will have wider impact.
3. Direct funding of design work will be undertaken as part of this work. Exploitation of IP derived in this way will be determined by the contractual arrangements with those companies winning competitive tenders while ensuring the delivery of the SKA design according to the SKA IP policy.

Further IP generated wholly within Cambridge will be exploited appropriately via interaction with the University's wholly owned Cambridge Enterprise subsidiary.


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