South Africa raising the bar of super computing

If you want to model weather systems, perform advanced computational mechanics, simulate the impact of climate change, study the interaction of lithium and manganese in batteries at the atomic level, or conduct the next experiment of your latest in vitro biomedical technique virtually � and you want to do it in Africa � then there is only one place to go; the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC).

South Africa is celebrating 10 years of high-performance computing in the country since the launch of the CHPC in 2007.

Within a period of 10 years, scientists at the CHPC, which is hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), have managed to build thefastest computer in Africa named Lengau, a Setswana name for Cheetah. This computer has already improved South Africa's competitiveness in the research and development space globally. Lengau is ranked 121 on the world's Top 500 list of supercomputers.

The launch of the super computing facility in South Africa is evidence of our determination to be globally competitive in certain areas of science, and of the competence of South African scientists and engineers to develop, implement and maintain such cutting-edge technologies, says Dr Happy Sithole, Director at the CHPC.

The computer gives scientists an opportunity to conduct their research locally without having to travel abroad for higher performance computing infrastructure.

High-performance computing has grown tremendously since its inception. When we started, there were about 50 users across the country, but over the years it has increased to over 700 users. More so, these systems have also been integrated into universities, thus improving students' skills, adds Sithole.

In 2012, the centre introduced the Student Cluster Competition as a component of its Winter School. South Africa has won the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) Student Cluster Challenge on three occasions (2013, 2014 and 2016) and coming second only in 2015. The students who have come through this programme have gained a good understanding of high-performance computing and they contribute to growing this industry in the country and continent as a whole.

For the country to grow at the required rate as set out in the National Development Plan, it needs to change gear building capacity in the production and dissemination of knowledge. The CHPC represents a deliberate move by this country to invest in modern research and development.

High-Performance Computing has been put to good use in research in climate modelling, thus we are able to make reliable and accurate weather forecasting as well as process data fast. There has also been improvements in tackling challenges in the health systems as well as the Square Kilometre Array, concludes Sithole.

The CHPC will be holding its 10th annual conference from 5-9 December in East London under the theme The Last Decade of Accomplishment, the Next Decade of Opportunity.

Source: Department of Science and Technology

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