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Futuristic data centers: Computing the origins of the universe

Remember CERN’s data conundrum? In a nutshell, they’ve got 15 petabytes to deal with and have run out of storage. As much of a problem as this is, apparently a new worldwide scientific enterprise called the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is trying to one-up them in terms of data output. Well, 100-up them, to be accurate.

The new astronomical project is a radio telescope designed to see into the universe’s distant past to help answer questions about the Big Bang. To do this, it will pull in an exabyte – that’s 1 billion gigabytes – of data every day. As you can imagine, this presents a bit of a computing challenge.

Exploring the mysteries of the universe is no doubt going to take an epic data center project, and, as it turns out, a potentially new way of stacking chips in a server. According to its website, the SKA will require “100 petaflops per second processing power,” which is beyond current computing technology. Luckily, IBM and ASTRON, a Netherlands-based astronomy organization,  have created the DOME project to bring about this new world order of high performance research computing. In other words, they’re in the future!

SKA is still in its infancy and won’t be fully operational until 2024, but it sure will be interesting to watch as it grows.

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