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CHPC wins 2016 Student Cluster Challenge

Frankfurt-Germany – CHPC has taken the top prize in the international Student Cluster Competition held at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Germany this week.

The CHPC is no new comer in this competition, having won the top prize in 2013 and 2014 and taken second prize in 2015, the centre entered yet another team of undergraduate students this year and took the overall prize, beating 11 other student contenders from across the globe.

Other entrants included:

·         Purdue University & University of Colorado, Boulder (USA)

·         Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)

·         National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (USA)

·         University of Science and Technology of China (China)

·         University of Hamburg (Germany)

·         Tsinghua University (China)

·         University of Tartu (Estonia / USA)

·         Boston Green Team (USA)

·         Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya BarcelonaTech (Spain)

·         Huazhong University of Science & Technology (China)

·         Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China)

The awards ceremony took place on 22 June 2016 in front of ISC attendees from around the globe who met in Frankfurt to share the latest developments in HPC and to witness students expertise in what is hoped to become the formation of a pipeline for future HPC experts. The international competition features small teams that compete to demonstrate the incredible capabilities of state-of- the-art high-performance cluster hardware and software. In a real-time challenge, 12 teams of six undergraduates and high school students build a small cluster of their own design on the ISC exhibition floor and race to demonstrate the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications.

Winning team members under the supervision of CHPC engineers, David Macleod and Matthew Cawood are:

·         Andries Bingani – University of the Witwatersrand

·         Ashley Naudé – Stellenbosch University

·         Avraham Bank – University of the Witwatersrand

·         Craig Bester – University of the Witwatersrand

·         Sabeehah Ismail – University of the Witwatersrand

·         Leanne Johnson – Stellenbosch University


·         Kayla-Jade Butkow – University of the Witwatersrand

·         Bakhekile Ndlovu – University of the Witwatersrand


The South African team is the only team that enters a brand new team each year. This is done to give as many students as possible exposure to the international HPC community. The international competition is a culmination of two rounds of national competition processes that CHPC starts every April with a call to students in all universities in the country.

The CHPC’s ISC Team was sponsored by Dell South Africa which provides the team with equipment, travel, accommodation, meals and training for the ISC competition. Mellanox sponsored the team’s EDR Infiniband interconnect (a high performance computer network technology operating at 100Gbps).

Team selection

The competition begins with team selection, a process designed to impart critical knowledge for building a cluster, this includes: using Linux systems, the basic software stack of a cluster and considerations which should be taken into account when choosing hardware. Team selection concludes with each team presenting a theoretical design for a student cluster to a panel of judges. The results from the team selection project and applications are used to select the teams which will proceed to the CHPC Student Cluster Competition, a national competition.

CHPC Student Cluster Competition (a national selection round)

In the CHPC Student Cluster Competition participants build small HPC clusters out of hardware provided by the CHPC and its industrial partners. The contest takes place on the exhibition floor at the CHPC national meeting annually. The participants are given a selection of applications to optimise and run on their cluster to demonstrate their design’s performance. Each team is assigned a budget of approximately R200000 and a parts list from one of the CHPC's industry partners. With this budget and parts list, the team must design a cluster taking into consideration the set of applications which will be used to benchmark the cluster. Once the cluster's design is finalised the hardware specification is submitted to the CHPC's partners for manufacturing. The hardware, as specified in the cluster design, is delivered to the exhibition floor of the CHPC national meeting. Here the teams unpack their equipment, construct their cluster, install the software stack and perform benchmarks. The teams are judged on a combination of the performance of the applications and the design of the cluster.


Last Updated on Friday, 24 June 2016 12:07

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CHPC's Lengau ranked 121st on the world's 'Top500 list' of supercomputers

CHPC's newly-launched petascale machine, Lengau (seTswana for Cheetah), received international recognition this week by being placed 121st on the computing Top 500 List at the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Lengau was recently officially unveiled in Cape Town.

The Top 500 List lists computers ranked by their performance on the LINPACK benchmark (The LINPACK Benchmarks measure a system's floating point computing power. Introduced by Jack Dongarra, they measure how fast a computer solves a dense n by n system of linear equations, which is a common task in science and engineering).

With over 24 000 cores, the machine is the fastest computer on the African continent owing to its speed of roughly one petaflop (1000 teraflops) which is 15 times faster than the previous system named Tsessebe (seTswana for Antelope). South Africa last entered the Top500 List following an upgrade of Tsessebe in 2013 and featured at position 311. Tsessebe ran at 64.44 teraflops. 

Lengau puts the country in the company of leading supercomputing nations. It is the only system in Africa featuring on the TOP500 and it is the second fastest supercomputer in the southern hemisphere, a demonstration of South Africa’s commitment to ensuring world-class services to its research community and industry.

"This prestigious international accolade demonstrates that Africa's first petascale supercomputer is ready to accelerate applications that run on it, a boost for Africa's research and industrial competitiveness," said Dr Happy Sithole, Director: CHPC.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 June 2016 12:19

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CHPC unveils petascale machine

CHPC has unveiled the fastest computer on the continent, a petaflops (PFLOPs) machine.

This is a super computer with processing speed capable of a thousand-trillion floating point operations per second. Floating point operations or flops are used in computing to calculate extremely long numbers.

With over 24 000 cores, the machine is the fastest computer on the African continent owing to its speed of just over one petaflop (1000 teraflops) which is 15 times faster than the previous system named Tsessebe.

Tsessebe had a peak performance of 24.9 teraflops/second and became number 311 on the world’s top 500 supercomputers and was ranked number one in Africa.

Following the history of CHPC of naming its high performance computers after fastest animals in the country, this petascale machine was named Lengau which is a Setswana name for Cheetah.

Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director-General: Research Development and Support at the Department of Science and Technology, outlined the role high-performance computing played in growing the economy.

“For our country to grow at the required rate, as set out in the National Development Plan, it needs to change gear by building capacity in the production and dissemination knowledge,” he explained.

“The CHPC represents a deliberate move by this country to invest in modernising our research and development. High-performance computing and advanced data technologies are powerful tools in enhancing the competiveness of regions and nations,” he added.

Dr Happy Sithole, the Director of CHPC, detailed the journey leading to the unveiling of the new machine.

“When we started in 2007, we took inspiration from the fastest animals in the land and named our first high performance computing system iQudu (Xhosa for Kudu) which boasted 2.5 teraflops (which is 2.5 trillion operations per second).

“In 2009 there was increased demand of computational resources, and a new high performance computing system dubbed the Tsessebe was launched. It boasted 24.9 teraflops and became number 311 on the TOP500 supercomputers, and ranked number one in the African continent. The system was later upgraded to 64.44 teraflops,” he said.

The current system is named Lengau owing to its speed of 1000 teraflops. Due to the technology, the system is also smaller in footprint than the previous system. The Dell HPC system is comprised of 1,039 Dell PowerEdge servers, based on Intel Xeon processors totalling 19 racks of compute nodes and storage. It has a total Dell Storage capacity of five petabytes, and uses Dell Networking ethernet switches and Mellanox EDR InfiniBand with a maximum interconnect speed of 56 GB/s.

“Dell is proud to collaborate with South Africa’s CSIR on the delivery of the fastest HPC system in Africa. The Lengau system will provide access and open doors to help drive new research, new innovations and new national economic benefits,” said Jim Ganthier, vice president and general manager, Engineered Solutions, HPC and Cloud at Dell.

“While Lengau benefits from the latest technology advancements, from performance to density to energy efficiency, the most important benefit is that Lengau will enable new opportunities and avenues in research, the ability to help spur private sector growth in South Africa and, ultimately, help enable human potential.”

The key advantages of Lengau are:

  • Effective access for users to compute resources who had limited or no access to the resources in the past due to the capacity constraints,
  • Effective performance of large scale (i.e. many cores, many teraflops) simulations that were impossible in the past, opening completely new avenues of research, and
  • Effective capacity to build the private sector/non-academic user base of the CHPC for improved national economic benefit to be realised from HPC utilisation.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 June 2016 15:55

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German Parliamentary Portfolio Committee visits CHPC

This week, the CHPC welcomed the Committee on Digital Agenda of the Bundestag (German Federal Parliament) on an official visit to a number scientific and legislative organisations in South Africa.

The committee, through South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, visited the country on a five-day mission to find cooperation and business opportunities. The committee is made-up of seven members from the various parties in Germany: Christian Democratic Union of Germany, Christian Social Union, Social Democratic Party and The Left Party.

Following a CHPC presentation on its mandate and activities, some which included existing CHPC activities and relations with Germany, discussions occurred on how Germany can work together with the CHPC towards reaching its mandate and clarity on the specific programmes Germany is looking at within South Africa.  

The visit to the CHPC followed by scheduled meetings with:

·         Members of the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town

·         Members of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

·         Representatives of the Western Cape Government

·         Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Cllr. Patricia de Lille

·         Ms Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology in Pretoria

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 March 2016 11:39

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