Dr. Brad Frank joins IDIA as Associate Director, Astronomy Operations

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Brad Frank in this position that will ensure that the research cloud is able to deliver on the needs of the astronomy research community, in particular for MeerKAT projects that are analysed on the ilifu facility.

Dr. Frank first got involved with IDIA in 2016. Back then IDIA had just launched, and most of the work was done on the African Research Cloud (ARC).

He had written a proposal for funding to build a server for his own research. He got the quote, but then quickly realised that he would need to find space and a sys-admin for the machine. Plus, it wasn’t really the ideal spec for my research. He awas then told by colleagues about the ARC — they had a large amount of kit, but no-one was really using it! So he ditched my proposal and started learning about OpenStack etc… with colleagues Tim and Stefan from UCT’s Information and Communication Technology Services. It was heavy going at first. They didn’t really know the astronomy use-cases and Bradley didn’t know much about the technology. But together they used the proof of concept project ARCADE to learn together, and it was a lot of fun and quite successful. The results form ARCADE created a lot of confidence with our stakeholders, and institutions who weren’t a part of IDIA yet.

Dr. Frank was somewhat skeptical about using cloud technology for radio astronomy applications at first. “But”, he says, “we slowly proved to ourselves (and stakeholders) that we could do neat stuff with OpenStack. We transitioned into IDIA and slowly started putting together the systems/workflows that we have today.” Dr. Frank is leading the pipelines project.

“It’s been really exciting to be a part of the IDIA over the past few years. I’d like to believe that we’ve set a strong example for how a data centre ought to be designed and run for radio astronomy in the modern era. Of course, there’s plenty of challenges and issues, but we are very much in new territory — both with the scale of the data challenge, and the way that science teams engage with the data. So we’re the first to encounter those challenges, and are also the first to solve them. ” he says.

The IDIA team welcomes Dr. Frank to the new post.