http://www.engineeringnews.co.za
  SEARCH
Login
R/€ = 13.06Change: -0.14
R/$ = 11.66Change: -0.12
Au 1213.36 $/ozChange: -4.14
Pt 1189.50 $/ozChange: -1.00
 
 
Note: Search is limited to the most recent 250 articles. Set date range to access earlier articles.
Where? With... When?








Start
 
End
 
 
And must exclude these words...
Close Main Search
Close Main Login
My Profile News Alerts Newsletters Logout Close Main Profile
 
Agriculture   Automotive   Chemicals   Competition Policy   Construction   Defence   Economy   Electricity   Energy   Environment   ICT   Metals   Mining   Science and Technology   Services   Trade   Transport & Logistics   Water  
What's On Press Office Tenders Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements Letters Contact Us
 
 
 
RSS Feed
Article   Comments   Other News   Research   Magazine  
 
 
Jan 19, 2012

SA’s supercomputer back in world top-500 after R9m upgrade

Back
© Reuse this



South Africa’s Centre for High Performance Computing’s (CHPC’s) Tsessebe Sun Constellation System has regained its position as one of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers, following a R9-million upgrade.

The CHPC is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, and is driven by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

The South African supercomputer now takes the 329th place in the international top-500 list, says CHPC director Dr Happy Sithole.

This ranking was confirmed in November, at the Super Computing Conference in Seattle, in the US. This followed shortly after a three-week upgrade of the machine in October, which saw the performance, as measured by the LINPACK Benchmark system, improve from 25 teraflops to 61 teraflops.

A teraflop refers to operating speed – and not storage capacity, which uses the byte-scale – with one teraflop equal to one-trillion floating point operations per second. This is largely similar to the older term of instructions per second. (To put this in perspective, consider that standard household computers and laptops operate at between one and seven gigaflops, or one-billion floating point operations per second.)

Shortly after its launch by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, in September 2009, the Tsessebe Cluster was ranked at number 311 on the top-500 list. As a consequence of fast developments in the supercomputing arena, machines generally do not stay in the rankings for very long and by May 2010 the CHPC machine had already fallen to 461st.

The CHPC's Tsessebe system is made up of Oracle’s Sunblade X6275 blades with Intel Nehalem 8 core processors and Westmere 12 core processors, as well as Dell’s Poweredge C6100 servers with Intel Westmere 12 core processors.

The upgrade to this complex machine was performed by a CHPC team, in collaboration with the Cambridge High Performance Computing Centre, Dell and Eclipse Holdings.

The decision to upgrade the CHPC system was taken to cater for the increased demand for high performance computing by various universities and science council teams, bringing utilisation to nearly 100%, explains Sithole.

Having a world-class supercomputer is also part of South Africa’s commitment to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, in order to process the enormous data rates that will be produced by this project’s radio telescopes, should South Africa win the bid to host the E1.5-billion SKA project.

“Getting back in the top-500 was a bonus,” says Sithole.

The CHPC system is available to researchers across the country through the 10 gigabit-per-second South African National Research Network. Industry also has access to the supercomputer.

Supercomputers are typically used for high calculation-intensive tasks, such as problems around weather forecasting, climate research, molecular modeling and quantum physics.

For example, supercomputers have been used abroad to help understand certain diseases by computing the complex process behind protein folding. Proteins that fold incorrectly can cause illness. If scientists can understand what leads to misfolds, new treatments or cures might be possible. Supercomputers have also helped researchers improve the efficiency of combustion engines, especially for aircraft.

MORE REQUIRED

South Africa requires more supercomputers than the systems – some universities have small supercomputers – currently available, says Sithole.

“The availability of more supercomputers in South Africa and Africa as a whole is paramount to finding solutions to the problems that plague the region, such as climate change and the impact it has on Africa’s agriculture, HIV/Aids, malaria and the implementation of renewable energy.

“South Africa’s economy also exerts pressures on industry to continuously grow its business to maintain its edge in the market. Computational research, used together with conventional research, offers remarkably speedy research solutions that are neither labour intensive, nor exorbitant,” he notes.
 
The other African countries with known supercomputers are Tanzania (a 2.5 teraflop cluster) and Egypt.
 
The CHPC system has been Africa’s fastest supercomputer since its launch.
 
There are plans to expand South Africa’s supercomputer abilities, with CHPC to build a second supercomputer, starting in 2013.

“This will be a new system and not an upgrade, and it will ensure we can allow for more users around the country,” says Sithole.

One challenge with building any supercomputer is the fact that computer chips change every 18 months.

Supercomputers also require specific working environments.

This environment must be programmed and controlled by a building management system, especially in terms of temperature and relative humidity.

The optimal humidity operating range is between 45% and 55%. Room temperature has to be 20 ˚C.
 
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Supercomputers have more than one brain, or processor. These processors run different parts of the same computer programme concurrently (parallel processing), resulting in significantly faster compute times.

Parallel processing is used when many complex calculations are required, such as in climate or earthquake modelling.

Supercomputers have ten times the speed and memory compared to a personal computer, and are made up of many smaller computers – sometimes thousands of them – connected via fast local network connections.

The fastest supercomputers currently operating do so on the petaflop scale – that is one quadrillion operations per second, explains Sithole.

The world’s fastest supercomputer is Japan’s K computer, running at 10 petaflops, he adds.

Talk is now of achieving a system capable of exaflop operation by around 2018. An exaflop is a quintillion floating point operations per second – that is a number with 18 zeros.
 
The first machine generally referred to as a supercomputer – though not officially designated as one – the IBM Naval Ordnance Research Calculator, was used at Columbia University from 1954 to 1963 to calculate missile trajectories.

The history of supercomputers is closely associated with Seymour Cray, who designed the first officially designated supercomputers in the late 1960s.

In the initial stages supercomputers were the entities of large government agencies and government-funded institutions. They were carefully controlled since they were used for nuclear weapons research. They were also a source of national pride, and symbolic of technical leadership, says Sithole.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Latest News
Salani Sithole
International consulting engineering company Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV) has appointed Salani Sithole as South African MD, effective March 1. Sithole has been with the company for six years and, prior to joining RHDHV, held various positions in engineering consulting,...
The Gauteng Provincial Government has outlined plans to develop a handful of “mega” human settlements as part of an ambitious long-term housing development strategy aimed at narrowing the housing backlog, with plans afoot to replace informal settlements with...
Eskom power stations
While State-owned power utility Eskom was unable to cut off electricity supply to some of its neighbouring trade partners, it was able to reduce energy exports by 10% when load shedding was implemented locally. The Department of Public Enterprise explained that Eskom...
More
 
 
Recent Research Reports
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
 
 
 
 
 
This Week's Magazine
National flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) is in an advanced stage of renegotiating its deal with European airliner manufacturer Airbus to acquire A320 single-aisle (or narrow body) aircraft. The aim is to replace ten of the aircraft still on order with five...
Worldwide, the main thrust in the ports industry over the past decade or more has been to increase efficiency. Traditionally, ports have been run by engineers and mariners and, in the past, increasing a port’s capacity was achieved by expanding the harbour. “That has...
What do you do when an elephant has a toothache? You call Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from the University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) faculty of veterinary science, Onderstepoort, one of only two elephant ‘dentists’ in the world.
The 2015 Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) competition was launched earlier this month in Johannesburg, with the main focus on creating and inspiring entrepreneurs to create jobs and boost the economy.
In a recent letter to the editor that I sent to Engineering News (Concerns regarding South African portion of Square Kilometre Array) and in a follow-up article elaborating further (We must start preparations to build our own synchrotron light source), I stated my...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alert Close
Embed Code Close
content
Research Reports Close
Research Reports are a product of the
Research Channel Africa. Reports can be bought individually or you can gain full access to all reports as part of a Research Channel Africa subscription.
Find Out More Buy Report
 
 
Close
Engineering News
Completely Re-Engineered
Experience it now. Click here
*website to launch in a few weeks
Subscribe Now for $96 Close
Subscribe Now for $96