Cisco -- SKA -- Stefano Mattiello-2

Cisco’s Stefano Mattiello at the SKA press briefing

Cisco and South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) Sign MoU for Investment Programme in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project

Cisco announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) to embark on a strategic investment programme that prioritises country transformation, skills development and technology innovation in respect to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

As part of the MoU, Cisco will be the Technology Sponsor of the SKA project. This joint strategic collaboration with the DST, which was initiated in 2011, represents the largest single investment to any one project that Cisco has made to date globally.

In South Africa the SKA will be hosted in the remote town of Carnavon, Northern Cape, to help local community members develop basic and intermediate ICT and networking skills. The core – i.e. the region with the highest concentration of receivers – will be constructed in the Northern Cape Province, about 80 km from the town of Carnarvon. The sparse aperture array (low frequency array) and the dish survey telescope will be built in Western Australia. Currently 16 countries including the European Commission are involved in international SKA consortium.

Cisco -- SKA -- Alfie Hamid

Alfie Hamid

The Cisco/DST investment in support of the SKA in South Africa comprises four key elements:

Cisco -- SKA --Vernon Picture

Vernon Picture

i. A Cisco Networking Academy and Knowledge Centre (CKC) have been established in Carnavon, Northern Cape, where the SKA will be hosted, to help local community members develop basic and intermediate ICT and networking skills. The CKC and e-schools initiative was successfully launched and opened by Minister Hanekom on 19 November 2013.

ii. Optical Transport Research in partnership with a local leading university (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) which includes the donation of Cisco equipment to create a fully-fledged, multi-million dollar, state of the art laboratory facility donation as well as direct access to key expert resources in Cisco’s Optical Engineering Business Unit (HERO) in San Jose.

iii. Donation of a next generation Data Center Laboratory and equipment to the SKA South Africa project office to enable testing and validation of the central signal processing (CSP) architectural and technical specification requirements.

iv. A Cisco TelePresence System donation to SKA South Africa and its key partners sites (Rhodes University and NMMU) to provide high definition immersive video capabilities to enable and facilitate interdepartmental collaboration both locally and internationally.
Aligning with South Africa’s National Development Agenda – Bridging the Skills Gap:

Cisco believes that this investment is very relevant to South Africa’s development agenda because it aligns with the government’s the new growth path (NGP) and the national development plan (NDP) particularly with respect to high end skills development and job creation.

Over the past 15 years, Cisco has invested in excess of ZAR100 million in the development of South Africa’s advanced ICT skills base – through the Cisco Networking Academy programme. This programme focuses on basic and advanced networking training in partnership with High Schools, Colleges, Universities, National & Provincial Governments and NGOs. The Cisco Networking Academy in Carnavon is already helping local community members in one of South Africa’s most underserved regions to develop basic and intermediate ICT and networking skills.

Similarly, Cisco Community Knowledge Centers (CKCs) aim to connect the unconnected by pairing access to ICT with training to develop local leadership and capacity to sustain the CKC. As new industries emerge, spurred by smart investment in technology like the SKA, the development of skills and talent will be critical for the economic success of Carnavon and South Africa as a whole.

Cisco -- SKA -- David Meads

David Meads

Driving Technology Innovation and Leadership:

The emerging era of technology innovation and growth which Cisco refers to as the Internet of Everything (IoE), a phenomenon which bring together people, processes, data and things through intelligent network connections on a global scale, brings with it the challenges of managing large amounts of data and this will be even more relevant with the SKA project. Cisco will help SKA to start looking at technology and infrastructure needed to facilitate data collection and management enabling new experiences, improved efficiencies, breakthrough innovations and new economic models for services and growth.

The IoE is also driving a growing demand for to network simplification. Cisco SDN is based on the principle of a centralised control plane separated from the network forwarding or switching plane that it controls. NMMU will be engaged in research topics assisting Cisco define a SDN capability for its optical transport platforms.

With Cisco immersive video collaboration systems, SKA experts and key partners are already conducting meetings and collaborating with colleagues worldwide as if everyone were in the same location utilising true-to-life quality and exacting details to enhance in-person collaboration. Such intelligent and innovative use of collaborative video technology will increase productivity and help reduce overall costs.

World Class Optical Research:
The strategic partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) will facilitate world class, pioneering research for Cisco on next generation optical transport systems. Specifically Cisco is working with the Physics and Computer Science Departments and the programme within NMMU is being co-ordinated through the Innovation Support & Technology Transfer office.

The research project, which includes topics and core equipment, sponsored by Cisco’s high end routing and optical (HERO) business unit under the leadership and executive sponsorship of Vice President Bill Gartner, is expected to run for between three to five years. Furthermore, the novel research topics provided by Cisco have the potential to create new masters and PHD skills, specialised in optical transport networking and networking in general and NMMU students will have the opportunity to intern at Cisco’s HQ in San Jose in Optical Engineering.

Photographs by Axel Buhrmann

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