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18 September 2019 Partner Release

This quantum leap in capacity between Australia and Asia ensures Australia has the reliable and scalable data network required for important global science projects such as Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) and potentially the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

Projects like the LHC and SKA, involving big data and collaborations between Australian researchers and their counterparts in Asia and Europe, are set to expand in the coming years.

Building a data network for the SKA telescope

The SKA is a global big science project to build the world’s largest radio telescope, co-located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in outback Western Australia and in South Africa.  Although a decision is still to be made by the SKA Organisation which oversees the delivery of the project, leveraging the capabilities of the AARNet network on the Indigo subsea cable system could be key to moving data from the SKA telescope located in Australia to researchers around the world.

Australia’s national science agency – CSIRO – is the first AARNet customer to be provisioned with network services running over Indigo. As operator of the MRO, CSIRO will use Indigo to benefit the instruments already located there including the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) precursor telescopes.

Services used by CSIRO include a 10 Gigabit per second (Gbps) virtual private network between Sydney and Perth, and a 100 Gbps end-to-end encrypted optical circuit connecting the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) in Canberra and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth to support research activities.

AARNet CEO Chris Hancock says owning spectrum on the Indigo subsea cable system enables AARNet to not only increase international capacity out of Perth 50-fold to support projects like the SKA, but also provide sustainable high capacity network services to the research community long term.

“We’re delighted to support the Australian Government and CSIRO in their work to host the Australian part of the SKA. We have been a partner in the international SKA Signal and Data Transport Consortium, collaborating with CSIRO and global research and education network partners to design the SKA’s long-haul data networks.

We work very closely with our customers and the global research and education network community to develop and deploy networking technologies, infrastructure and resources that meet the data transport needs of research ahead of demand,” said Hancock.

Dr David Williams, Executive Director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections at CSIRO says AARNet plays a vital role in supporting the data transfer, compute and storage requirements of CSIRO researchers.

“CSIRO and AARNet have collaborated for more than 30 years on building high capacity networks to support Australian research. We have successfully partnered to build the networking required to connect the SKA precursor telescope ASKAP at the MRO to the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, 900 kilometres away in Perth.

The new Indigo capacity will support our ASKAP project now and we hope also the unprecedented flows of data the SKA is expected to generate. We’re very excited about using our optical circuit on Indigo Central – Sydney to Perth – to transform how supercomputing is used in Australia,” said Williams.

Network innovation to support big science

AARNet is a world leader in using optical technologies in new and innovative ways for big science. The way AARNet has integrated the submarine spectrum with its existing terrestrial network to directly interconnect locations around the world and across Australia means that in the future, Great Barrier Reef data, for example, could be transferred directly from Cairns all the way to the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth.


An artist's impression of the Square Kilometre Array's antennas in Australia. ©  ©SKA Organisation

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