Big data brings big opportunities, but also big challenges


The increase in demand for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources to meet and manage big data requirements poses major capacity challenges. This is especially true for big data projects such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the MeerKAT radio telescope.


To address this challenge, the NWU and the University of Cape Town (UCT) recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will support researchers through the Africa Research Cloud (ARC).


Easy access for researchers


The mission of the ARC is to support researchers from all domains and at any location to have access to a full suite of digitally enabled data and analytical resources, relevant to their area of research.


The MoU commits the NWU and UCT to co-operating and providing the necessary resources to design, build, maintain and support the ARC, which is based on the Openstack and Ubuntu free and open-source software platforms for cloud computing*.


The ARC combines distributed data storage, computing resources and other cyber infrastructure and skills development into a network platform for data-intensive science.


More universities to collaborate


The NWU and UCT will establish the service, but in the next phase other universities such as Cambridge in the United Kingdom and the University of the Western Cape will join. Also joining them are government services such as the Centre for High Performance Computing and the Data Intensive Research Initiative for South Africa.


Although not part of the MoU, the private sector is also involved: Canonical (Mark Shuttleworth), IBM and Dell are already part of the establishment phase.


* Cloud computing entails the use of a network of remote servers that are hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data.

Boeta Pretorius, NWU IT director and Sakkie Janse van Rensburg, executive director for ICT at UCT, at the signing of an MoU on the Africa Research Cloud. (Photograph supplied)