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Media release


17 November 2011
The CSIR Meraka Institute and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) have announced that the Centre for High Performance Computing`s (CHPC) Tsessebe Sun Constellation System has been ranked as one of the world¿s fastest supercomputers, taking 329th place in the international Top 500 list. The ranking was confirmed on Tuesday, 15 November 2011, at the Super Computing Conference in Seattle, USA, where the world¿s high performance computing industry is congregated.

This follows shortly after the upgrade of the machine in October 2011, which saw the performance of the CHPC machine, as measured by the LINPACK Benchmark, improve from 25 Teraflops to 61 Teraflops.

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 system has a theoretical peak performance of 74 Teraflops.

The upgrade to this complex machine was performed by a CHPC team in collaboration with Cambridge High Performance Computing Centre, DELL and Eclipse Holdings. “The configuration and implementation of the system by this team in which South African engineers took the lead, paves the way for South Africa’s capability in producing local HPC solutions,” comments Laurens Cloete, Executive Director: CSIR Meraka Institute, The decision to upgrade the CHPC system was taken to cater for an increased demand as usage by various universities and science council teams had brought utilisation to nearly 100%. “Getting back on the TOP500 is therefore a bonus resulting from an upgrade that was done to satisfy local demand for high performance computing,” Cloete states.

The CHPC high performance computing platforms are being used for computationally intensive problems in fields such as materials science, climatology, chemistry and the biomedical domain.

The CHPC systems are available to researchers across the country through the 10 gigabit-per-second South African National Research Network. “African researchers from academia and industry now have a facility that is able to process over 60 trillion cycles of instruction per second, enabling collaborative research that addresses scientific grand challenges, addressing societal issues and enhancing industry competitiveness,” Cloete points out. “This infrastructure is also developing computational research into a viable mode alongside experimental and theoretical modes of enquiry across all academic disciplines.”

“This rating of CHPC’s supercomputer comes as South Africa bolsters its commitment to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, a goal for which the centre has been working tirelessly to ensure that it is fully equipped to process the enormous data rates that will be produced by the radio telescopes,” said Cloete,. The Top500 listing is evidence of CHPC’s and the  DST’s commitment to help ensure that South Africa wins the right to host the 1.5 billion Euro SKA telescope.

Shortly after its launch by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor, in September 2009, the Tsessebe Cluster was ranked at number 311 on the TOP500 list. As a consequence of the fast developments in the supercomputing arena, machines generally do not stay on the TOP500 for very long and by May 2010 the CHPC machine was ranked 461th.

The CHPC system has been Africa’s fastest supercomputer since its launch. It is an important component of South Africa's National Cyberinfrastructure that is being built in a partnership by DST and the CSIR.

The CHPC is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology implemented by the CSIR Meraka Institute.


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Last updated : 18 November 2011

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