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Firing up the continent

The year 1994 marked a much-anticipated turning point in South Africa's history...read more in the HPC Year Book on page 6

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 October 2017 14:38

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CSIR and SA Weather Services partner

For the development of weather and climate products and services

The South African Weather Service (SAWS), an entity of the Department of Environmental Affairs, and the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) of the CSIR, have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that will help strengthen the relationship between the two organisations in terms of knowledge and skills transfer, as well as joint research projects that can result in the development of weather and climate products and services through the use of High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities.

The mission of the CHPC is to provide world-class high performance computing to scientific and academic institutions in South Africa that enables cutting-edge research with high impact on the country’s economy. SAWS is the mandated national meteorological service which has a vision of a WeatherSMART Nation, where the quality of life, resilience to extreme weather events and the mitigation of climate change impacts can all be enhanced through the use of reliable weather and climate data provided by the organisation.

In order to produce weather forecasts and climate predictions and projections, SAWS uses mathematical models that run on big computers to allow simulations to be produced timeously for decision making. SAWS uses a CRAY XC30 supercomputer that has 84 computing nodes and runs at an average of 85% usage to produce its every day, operational forecasts that are subsequently issued by SAWS’ forecasters to the public through various dissemination methods that include radio and television. The supercomputer at SAWS is, however, inadequate to conduct the necessary research to improve on its modelling forecasts and applications research in a bid to stay up to date with other international organisations. It is for this reason that SAWS and the CHPC have joined forces to ensure that SAWS stays relevant on modelling research that will eventually translate into even better and more reliable weather forecasts and climate predictions.

The CHPC hosts the largest and fastest computer in Africa called Lengau. Lengau comprises 1368 nodes each with 24 Intel Xeon ® E5-2690 V3 CPU Cores, and 5 fat nodes each with 5 Intel Xeon ® E7-4850 CPU cores. CHPC also provides a total of 4PB for temporary storage. SAWS scientists will utilise Lengau to run weather and climate models for research purposes. The CHPC cluster will also serve as a fail-over or business continuity system for SAWS’ operations, which will ensure that model forecasts are issued and disseminated in the event of a system failure at SAWS.  The SAWS head office in Pretoria is already on the South African National Research Network (SANReN), which means data can be downloaded and uploaded onto the CHPC cluster in Cape Town in near real time.


CSIR and SAWS delegation during the signing of the MoA


The signing of MoA was followed by discussions on technical aspects of the partnership: potential challenges and solutions, the setting of goals, capacity development between the two organisations, potential flagship prjects and a discussion around the possibility of having a meteorology research chair or two in South Africa. SAWS CEO: Mr Jerry Lengoasa, thanked the CSIR for the opportunity to partner, sighting that it would be difficult for his organisation to perform its mandate on its own given the computational resources challenges it is experiencing.

“Building an ecosystem of partnerships is important, the synergies that come from this type of partnerships is what the CSIR is looking for”, said Ms Hina Patel, Executive Director: CSIR Meraka Institute.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 16:13

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CHPC supercomputer finds new home in Ghana

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Relations (CSIR) has through its Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), donated a portion of its supercomputer to Ghana, where it will be used for human capital development purposes in preparation for the data processing requirements associated with the Square Kilometre Array’s (SKA) project. The donation of the supercomputer components is part of the launch of the first African SKA satellite outside of South Africa that recently took place in Accra,Ghana.

The single rack of compute nodes, with storage and network, was part of the CHPC’s decommissioned Tsessebe supercomputer and is now dedicated to training and capacity development at the Ghana Earth Observatory and will form the initial part of the processing of the data emanating from the satellite. The technology transfer forms part of the first phase of the CHPC’s SKA Readiness project involving repurposing and transfer of high performance computing (HPC) systems that are out of production to create HPC imprints in the 8 SKA Africa partner countries: Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar and Ghana. 

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) through the African Renaissance Fund funds the SKA Readiness project.  SKA Africa partner countries, with the exception of Kenya and Mozambique who are later in the year, have received HPC systems from three supercomputers: Ranger from the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) in the United States of America, Cambridge supercomputer from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Tsessebe from the CSIR in South Africa.

The second phase of the SKA Readiness project will start in 2018 through the donation and distribution of Stampede, a next generation supercomputer from TACC, which will expose the partner countries to different types of HPC technologies.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 August 2017 14:59

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South Africa takes second prize at the 2017 International Student Cluster Competition

Team South Africa has taken second prize in the prestigious International Student Cluster Competition held at the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The results were announced on 21 June 2017, following three-days days of immense hard work by twelve international teams.


The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) trains Computer Science and Engineering students from across South African universities in its annual winter school held every July and selects some for the national Student Cluster Competition that takes place during the CHPC’s National Conference every December. Winners of the national competition are entered into the annual International Student Cluster Competition that takes place in Germany. South Africa is always represented by a new team of six undergraduate students who travel to Germany to build a small cluster of their own design on the International Supercomputing Conference exhibition floor and race to demonstrate the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications. Students receive a unique opportunity to learn, experience and demonstrate how high performance computing influences our world and day-to-day learning.


The international competition is organised by the international High Performance Computing Advisory Council and this year’s competing teams were:


•   Centre for High Performance Computing (South Africa)

•   Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)

•   Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, University of Edinburgh(United Kingdom)

•   University of Science and Technology & National University of Defense Tech (China)

•   Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg(Germany)

•   University of Hamburg(Germany)

•   National Energy Research Scientific Computing Centre (United States of America)

•   Universitat Politècnica De Catalunya Barcelona Tech(Spain)

•   Purdue University & Northeastern University (Unites States of America)

•   The Boston Green Team (Boston University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology University of Massachusetts – Boston (United States)

•   Beihang University(China)

•   Tsinghua University(China)


Tsinghua University (China) took the overall prize based on their Linpackscore and their performance in the ‘mystery challenge’.

Team South Africa was represented by Mishka Mohamed, Kyle Jordaan, Tyrone de Ruiters, Liam Doult all from University of Western Cape as well as Phillip Goosen and Lydia de Lange from Stellenbosch University. The team members were honourned guests of Minister Naledi Pandor at during the Department of Science and Technology’s Budget Vote in parliament this year where she wished them well for the international competition.

South Africahas won the international competition three-times before and taken second position once. Asked on what the magic formula is, David Macleod, CHPC Engineer and team’s advisor simply says: “We have good sponsors and we come prepared”.

This year’s team was sponsored by DellEMC for hardware equipment of R2 million and Mellanox was the sponsor for network equipment of R200,000.


Last Updated on Thursday, 22 June 2017 16:56

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CHPC in the News

CHPC SAGrid Cluster Available

Documentation for users:

Dirisa Storage Unit Available

Lengau Cluster Available

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