Technology independence: Does New Zealand want it?
Article published in NBR 1st July 2018 (full version here)
Technology has been always at the centre of the social and economic progress of nations.
In the past, having access to raw materials and large extensions of land made economies stronger and resilient. That has been dramatically changing and New Zealand is no exception: We cannot envisage a future for our grandchildren purely reliant on the primary sector as the main generator of GDP.
Fortunately, New Zealand is also the land of brave and independent souls, from the first waka arriving at these shores centuries ago. That independent thinking is needed again to grasp how the world is changing in terms of technology dominance lead by IT. We all know how the first IT revolution changed our lives: The next one is emerging and will be much more dramatic. It will make nations either strategically leaders or totally dependent.
A complete understanding of IT platforms, low level computing and programming directly coupled with deep knowledge of hardware would create significant differences for nations who know how to apply it to their main production lines and social fabrics.
New Zealand has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be part of the leading pack. Over the past decade, we have been part of the design of the largest radio-telescope in the world: the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The SKA will be a fantastic scientific and engineering instrument, but also the largest supercomputer in history. In an unprecedented collaboration model of academia and industry, the NZ SKA Alliance has been working partially funded by the New Zealand government in the design of the computing platforms and other areas of the instrument in partnership with the most prestigious groups of the world.
It is the first time in history that New Zealand actually leads a design at this profound level -and the world recognises it, even if the classic parochial mentality ignores it.
What New Zealand can learn over the next 50 years of full participation in the SKA project can change our country for ever -not just for participating in the discovery of the origins of the universe and the understanding of what surrounds us (95% of it is dark energy and dark matter, which we don’t understand) but as the inspiration for new generations and bringing real and fresh talent to our shores.
Talent needs purpose: The best minds can go wherever they wish. This is not about finding young developers outdoorsy activities while they keep designing on top of platforms controlled by centralised powers. We don’t want New Zealand to become an “apps nation” -there won’t be much difference in the long run against cost-cutting countries. When Weta Digital had to establish itself as a strong production house it became a supercomputing company.
For a tiny fraction of the America’s Cup investment, New Zealand has the chance to leverage its productive matrix toward full control of its economic knowledge for decades -but it requires simple but bold decisions: Full participation in the SKA project will push the IT and high-tech boundaries and keep our primary sector at the top.
Just imagine if we could avoid the M-bovis outbreak which is costing hundreds of millions of dollars. And what can be discovered in the process? Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN and needed to design “a tool” -it became the world wide web. Australian radio-astronomers were working in signals and discovered what we all use today -the wifi
The SKA project is the flagship to inspire our youth in schools about a future for a New Zealand that is worth it. Just participating in the largest IT in history should be enticing but, if you also can help discover the origins of the universe then why live anywhere else?
It’s time for New Zealand Government to be ambitious, visionary and consolidate our independence. Would we be up to it?
Computing for SKA 2014 – Workshop collocated with III Multicore World
27th / 28th February 2014 – Auckland – AUT University
Information, registration and Sessions – here
Open Parallel manages the Software Development Environment (SDE) work package for the CSP and participates at Common Software work package for the SDP
Open Parallel is seeking funding to support these contributions to SKA.
Support letter from CSP Consortium Lead System Engineer (Canada) – 22 November 2013
Article about Open Parallel and SKA – New Zealand Herald – Monday 17th, January 2014 – Here
Open Parallel is member of the NZSKAIC (New Zealand Square Kilometre Array Industry Consortium) and is building capabilities in multicore software adapted for SKA requirements. Check Middleware for SKA and other SKA related pages here
NEW! – Comments from reviewers about NZ SKA Expression of Interest – 23 January 2013
Open Parallel (Science Data Processor)
Peer Reviewer A: 7, 7, 6 (20)
Significant opportunities, through potential linkage with MWA program and Australia’s own involvement in the SDP program. Open Parallel have identified an important strategic niche in the SDP package. Working with an active astronomy group (and VUW would add further expertise here) is likely to yield an innovative solution.
Peer Reviewer B: 7, 6, 7 (20)
Linkage exists with CSIRO for planning and with SDP consortium members for WBS planning. SDP is a high priority for Australia and I am sure ICRAR will form a good relationship with OP through the SDP collective work. Parallel and distributed computing will be a key element of the SKA systems design for SDP and most likely CSP. Having a company skilled and experienced in development and scaletesting of these systems will be extremely useful. Furthermore, Open Parallel staff have effectively contributed to the SDP work during the overall definition of the WBS.
Prof Brian Boyle (SKA Project Director, DIISRTE)
Prof Peter Quinn (Director, ICRAR)
- Relevance of the proposed activity to the SKA project Pre-construction Phase (0 = Zero relevance, 7 = entirely relevant)
- Capability of the submitter to deliver against the technical requirements of specified work packages (0 = Zero capability, 7 = excellent capability)
- Consistency of the proposed activity with ANZSCC strategic direction (0 = Zero consistency, 7 = entirely consistent)
Open Parallel also participates at NZ SKA Open Consortium (Science Data Processor)
Reviewers highlighted in their proposal that: “The technical ability to deliver is significantly enhanced by the presence of industry partner Open Parallel”
In September 2011, Open Parallel participated at the SKA Rutherford Innovation Showcase. Wellington, NZ.
Presentation (Multicore Computing and Open Innovation developments in New Zealand)
Workshop (Software Development, Open Innovation, Investment)
In March 2012, the 1st Multicore World conference -organised by Open Parallel, had several SKA presentations. Two of them were
- “Engagement in multicore and power efficient processing challenges: Prospects for New Zealand industry and science in the SKA project” John Houlker, Strategic Initiatives Manager, NZTE
- “Data processing algorithms: Legacy code will die” Tim Cornwell, Head of Computing, SKA Organisation
- “Multicore CPUs: power vs. energy considerations in Cloud Computing workloads” David Eyers, Lecturer, University of Otago, New Zealand
- “Middleware Parallelisation for Exascale Data Processing and Transport in SKA telescope” Mahmoud S. Mahmoud, PhD candidate, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
Details of the project will be available in this page