http://www.engineeringnews.co.za
  SEARCH
Login
R/€ = 14.49Change: 0.10
R/$ = 10.50Change: 0.05
Au 1294.90 $/ozChange: -0.67
Pt 1407.50 $/ozChange: -21.00
 
 
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
 
Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013   Agriculture   Automotive   Chemicals   Competition Policy   Construction   Defence   Economy   Electricity   Energy   Environment   ICT   Metals   Mining   Science & Technology   Services   Trade   Transport & Logistics   Water  
What's On Press Office Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements 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
Seattle|Cambridge High Performance Computing Centre|Dell|Eclipse Holdings|Energy|Engines|Industrial|Intel|Oracle|PROJECT|Renewable Energy|System|Systems|Africa|Egypt|Japan|South Africa|Tanzania|United States|Square Kilometre Array|Performance Computing|Systems|LINPACK|Happy Sithole|Naledi Pandor|Seymour Cray|Gigabit|Molecular Modeling|Parallel Processing
seattle|cambridge-high-performance-computing-centre|dell|eclipse-holdings|energy-company|engines|industrial|intel|oracle|project|renewable-energy|system|systems-company|africa|egypt|japan|south-africa|tanzania|united-states|square-kilometre-array-facility|performance-computing|systems|linpack|happy-sithole|naledi-pandor|seymour-cray|gigabit|molecular-modeling|parallel-processing
© 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
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Latest News
Few would argue with the notion that unemployment, which stands at around 25% on the narrow definition as reported by Statistics South Africa, remains one of the country’s most pressing challenges. Fewer still could contest the view that South Africa’s education...
Renewable-energy projects, such as this Northern Cape solar farm, seen as key to low‐carbon energy supply.
Upfront investment costs will and should remain a critical consideration as South Africa moves to upscale and accelerate its infrastructure programmes. But one of the lead authors of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that the...
The barrier to efficient water service delivery in South Africa was not of a technological nature but rather related to legal and Constitutional challenges, Water Research Commission (WRC) CEO Dhesigen Naidoo said on Thursday. Opening a WRC debate under the theme...
More
 
 
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2014: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2014 report provides an overview of the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon steel and stainless...
Projects in Progress 2014 - First Edition (PDF Report)
This publication contains insight into progress at the delayed Medupi and Kusile coal-fired projects, in Mpumalanga and Limpopo respectively, as well as at the Ingula pumped-storage scheme, which is under construction on the border between the Free State and...
Automotive 2014: A review of South Africa's automotive sector (PDF Report)
The report provides insight into the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local construction demand, geographic diversification, competition within the sector, corporate activity, skills, safety, environmental considerations and the challenges...
Construction 2014: A review of South Africa's construction sector (PDF Report)
Construction data released during 2013 hints at a halt to the decline in the industry during the last few years, with some commentators averring that the industry could be poised for recovery. However, others have urged caution, noting that the prospects for a...
Electricity 2014: A Review of South Africa's Electricity Sector (PDF Report)
This report provides an overview of the state of electricity generation and transmission in South Africa and examines electricity planning, investment in generation capacity, electricity tariffs, the role of independent power producers and demand-focused initiatives,...
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
 
 
 
 
 
This Week's Magazine
The Electronic Systems Laboratory (ESL) of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University is strongly reaffirming its position as one of South Africa’s leading centres for satellite technology and expertise. It is currently...
MORE IN SA Phase 2 should see local content on the mainline locomotive increase from 65% to 80% by the end of 2014
The world’s lowest-cost diesel-electric locomotive is not made in China, but in Pretoria, at RRL Grindrod Locomotives’ newly upgraded 30 000 m2 plant. The company’s locomotive pricing is “more competitive than any other original-equipment manufacturer (OEM)...
The South African Defence Review 2012, released to the public at the end of last month (despite the year given in its title) recommends the creation of the post of Chief Defence Scientist. This official would be responsible for the management of defence technology...
AltX-listed engineering technology company Ansys has been awarded an R188-million contract by Transnet to supply integrated dashboard display systems to the freight rail utility’s locomotives. Black-owned and controlled Ansys developed the bespoke integrated system...
South Africa’s sole nuclear power station Koeberg, which is located in the Western Cape, breached a major operations milestone on April 4, which marked the thirtieth anniversary of Unit 1 having been connected to the grid. Eskom, which operates the two-unit plant,...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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