SKA in India: Science with Big Data

Proposers: Yogesh Wadadekar, Tirthankar Roy Choudhury and Yashwant Gupta (NCRA-TIFR, Pune).

The objective of this workshop: To bring together the scientific, technical and industry persons in the country involved and interested in SKA to discuss plans for the (prototype) SKA Regional Centre in India.
Background: The Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the next generation radio telescope, has almost completed the detailed design phase, and will move into the construction from late 2020 onwards. India has made significant contributions during the design phase and the community now needs to firm up plans for participation in the construction phase. The SKA-India Consortium has been coordinating the overall effort in this direction. To support the activities, there have been four SKA-related workshops in the past ASI meetings which have proved very useful in bringing together the Indian community for participation in the SKA. These were:

  1. ASI2014 (IISER, Mohali) where the various science working groups were formed,
  2. ASI2015 (NCRA, Pune) where the SKA India consortium was formed,
  3. ASI2018 (OU, Hyderabad) where the science requirements for the SKA and a science DPR were discussed and
  4. ASI2019 (Christ, Bengaluru) where the technical capabilities and commitments of various Indian institutions and industries were discussed.

The vast amounts of data that the SKA Phase 1 telescopes will generate will be delivered to its users via a common science portal. Behind the science portal, will be a network of several large data centres called the SKA Regional Centres (SRCs) which will have sufficient compute and storage resources to support the requirements of SKA scientists for both PI driven and key science projects. It is estimated that each regional centre will ingest and process about 100 Petabytes of data every year. We envisage that one of the regional centres will be located in India. To develop the infrastructural, technical and human resource capability to host such a large data centre is a formidable challenge. To grow the expertise within the country, we have proposed to set up a prototype SKA data centre which will immediately be useful for (1) processing data from the SKA pathfinders and precursors that Indian astronomers are involved with and (2) provide a computing infrastructure for carrying out large numerical simulations relevant to SKA science.

Rationale: In the proposed workshop, we want to bring together the scientific and the technical community to discuss the requirements and specifications of the proposed prototype SRC in India. The aim of the workshop will be to discuss

  1. the science problems from different SKA-India Science Working Groups that require access to high end compute resources for simulations or data processing
  2. inputs from the technical community and our industry partners on the possible solutions architectures that can be optimal for our requirements and
  3. the long-term implications of a SRC in India for the SKA-India community.

Since a large fraction of the Indian astronomy community looks forward to attending the ASI meetings, this gives a nice opportunity to bring together those who are interested in the SKA with minimal effort. This workshop will help in synergising the scientific and technical communities in planning for one of the major work items for the SKA-India (SRC) which is expected to have long-lasting implications for the Indian astronomy community. It is worth mentioning that the focus of this workshop, i.e., challenges in dealing with big data using high-performance computing resources, is relevant not only for radio astronomers but also for the broader astronomy community in India.

Participants: It is expected that scientific and technical persons from different institutions who are already involved or interested in SKA related activities will attend this workshop. Furthermore, we will invite industries who are involved in the SKA activities and have expertise in big data applications to this workshop. The total number of participants are expected to be about 100.

Format of the meeting: We will have invited presentations relating to the computational requirements for the SKA-science in India, and the possible solutions available from the industry side. There will also be a discussion and brainstorming session at the end of the day for firming up the future plans.