Latest Blog Posts

CHPC Student Cluster Competition

CHPC Student Cluster Competition

Centre for High Performance Computing’s flagship human capital development program, the Student Cluster Competition is underway at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Gqeberhra. The selection round received 198 applications from 13 South African universities. 80 students are working hard at NMU whilst 40 have joined online. 40 successful students will go through to the national round at the CHPC National Conference to be held at the Boardwalk Convention Centre, Gqeberha, 1 – 4 December 2024.

For more information on this competition, please visit: https://www.scc.chpc.ac.za/ .

South Africa’s high-speed network for research impresses with data transfer rates of one terabyte in three minutes

South Africa’s high-speed network for research impresses with data transfer rates of one terabyte in three minutes

In response to the need to move large datasets at high speed, specifically for data-intensive research, the South Africa National Research Network (SANReN) implemented a backbone network with 100 Gbps capacity and 100 Gbps data transfer nodes in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Using this backbone, a record data transfer result of one terabyte in three minutes was achieved between Johannesburg and Colorado in the United States of America (USA).

Moving large amounts of data poses a significant challenge. Networks optimised for business operations are typically neither designed nor capable of meeting the data movement requirements of data-intensive research. When scientists attempt to run data-intensive applications over these general-purpose or enterprise networks, poor results are achieved. This poor performance significantly impacts the scientific mission, leading to challenges such as not receiving data on time or resorting to drastic measures like physically shipping disks.

The CSIR, through SANReN, increased network capacity and associated data transfer services facilitate the movement of large datasets by South African researchers and scientists.

The power of the 100 Gbps international link over the South Atlantic Cable System between South Africa and the USA was demonstrated using the new SANReN 100 Gbps data transfer nodes at the Supercomputing 2023 conference in Colorado. The link capacity was filled to 98% and the demonstration group achieved almost three terabytes per second in data transmission between the conference venue and points in the USA, Brazil and South Africa.

Photo 1: Graph showing filling of Amlight 100Gbps link

Photo 2: Amlight_Exp links that were demonstrated, covering three continents

NICIS accepted as an associate member of large international experiment at CERN 

NICIS accepted as an associate member of large international experiment at CERN 

The CSIR has become a full participant in the international experiment ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) through the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS). NICIS brings expertise and resources in high-performance computing, large-scale data storage and highspeed bandwidth to the project. ALICE is designed to study the physics of strongly interacting matter at extreme energy densities.

NICIS was granted associate membership in ALICE, a project at the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) for three years. CERN is renowned for its cutting-edge particle physics research, which requires processing, analysing and storing vast amounts of data generated by experiments like ALICE.

To support this, CERN relies on purpose-built high-performance computing infrastructure, large-scale storage and high-speed connectivity services provided by a global network of high-performance cluster node facilities. The NICIS will enhance ALICE’s computational capabilities and enable faster data processing and analysis by providing the only Tier two high-performance computing node in Africa.

Additionally, further collaboration opportunities will be explored. The associate membership status will be reviewed in three years, with the potential to expand collaboration to include ground-breaking scientific research in high-energy physics.

Source: CSIR

Team CSIR honoured at sixth parliament legacy report on science and innovation meeting

Team CSIR honoured at sixth parliament legacy report on science and innovation meeting

Continue to prioritise science, engineering and technology. This was the message when the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation of the sixth Parliament Administration presented its sixth Parliament Legacy Report on Science and Innovation. With elections scheduled for May 2024, South Africa’s seventh Parliamentary Administration is set to assume office in mid-2024.

The meeting took place on Wednesday, 23 March 2024 at iThemba Labs in Cape Town, with stakeholders from the science, higher education, technology and innovation sectors in attendance. Among the attendees were Dr Thulani Dlamini, Chief Executive Officer of the CSIR, and Vuyani Jarana, CSIR Board Chairperson.

In his address, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela, stated the importance of research and development and the pivotal role of science for the incoming seventh administration, as highlighted in the Science and Innovation Legacy Report. He expressed appreciation for the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Nompendulo Thobile Mkhatshwa, for presenting the key outcomes achieved from 2019 to 2024, as reflected in the Science Technology Innovation Legacy Report. Mkhatshwa outlined the committee’s key achievements during this period and proposed a series of recommendations for the incoming Administration. “As a portfolio, we are at the forefront of change. We must be intentional in driving this change,” she says, describing the committee’s actions as inclusive, impactful and transformative.

Dr Philemon Mjwara, the Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), underscored the importance of prioritising science and acknowledging how the national system of innovation supports the government’s initiatives. Science and innovation have demonstrated that significant change is possible when embedded in government and society. This was evident during the Covid-19 pandemic, where South Africa’s scientists assisted the government in making decisions on variants, vaccines and genomic surveillance. “Building a science ecosystem takes time and patience,” he said. “The next administration will witness scalability and greater impact.”

Among the distinguished dignatories in the science and innovation landscape were several former bursary recipients of the CSIR and the National Research Foundation (NRF). Regarded as great legacies of the Sixth Administration, these beneficiaries were invited to share the impact of the committee’s investment in their science careers. CSIR candidate engineer, Lukhanyo Somlota; National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS) – Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) cloud lead, Zama Mtshali; and NRF-funded researchers, Ruvimo Mhari and Dr Ali Elbashier attended, with Somlota and Mtshali sharing their journeys of becoming scientists.

“Being a top-performing student in school and at university set me on a path to a career in civil engineering,” stated Somlota. “The CSIR funded my studies from my second year onwards. Challenges during my university years humbled me and despite it taking seven years to complete a four-year degree, the patience and support I received as a CSIR employee enabled me to overcome the obstacles stacked against me.” Upon graduating, Somlota immediately received work placement at the CSIR’s Stellenbosch office. “Here I was introduced to port and coastal engineering, where I am a key researcher and the only black woman on my team.

“When you get good grades, you get good things in life,” Mtshali shared, detailing her humble beginnings and journey as an NRF-funded intern placed at the CHPC. “After I completed my honours degree, I was absorbed into the CSIR, where I contributed to building the fastest super-computer in Africa. Following this, I got involved in cloud computing where I led the deployment of the first NICIS cloud computing system, Sebowa – a system that was used to provide computing resources to solve the Covid-19 crisis at the time.”

Sharing their journeys of becoming young professionals in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation, served as a living testament that the efforts invested to ensure students receive funding and support do yield dividends, resulting in life-changing careers in science and innovation.

Committee members were also treated to a walkabout of the South African Isotope Facility at the iThemba Labs, providing them with a unique opportunity to engage with the investment and its application in science and innovation.

Photo: Attending the presentation of the Sixth Parliament Legacy Report are, from left: CSIR CEO, Dr Thulani Dlamini;
Group Executive: Business Advancement at the National Research Foundation, Dr Thandi Mgwebi;
Director-General of the DSI, Dr Phil Mjwara; CSIR candidate engineer, Lukhanyo Somlota;

CSIR Board Chair, Vuyani Jarana; and NICIS-CHPC cloud lead, Zama Mtshali. Photograph: DSI

Source: CSIR

South African students excel at global tech event in Texas

South African students excel at global tech event in Texas

Seven students from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) took first prize in the Student Cluster Competition (SCC) and won a sponsored trip to the Dell High Performance Computing and AI lab in Texas.

The SCC is organised by the Centre for High-Performance Computing (CHPC), which is supported by the Department of Science and Innovation, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It challenges undergraduate students to design, build, and manage mini-supercomputers for real-world scientific tasks.

The prize included training at Dell Labs and a chance to represent South Africa at the International Super Computing (ISC) Student Cluster Competition in Hamburg, Germany from 12 to 16 May 2024.

“The South African government’s support of international cyber infrastructure excellence is paying off,” stated Coach Nyameko Lisa, reflecting on their experience at the Texas Advanced Computing Centre (TACC). “The CHPC must continue to leverage partnerships and collaboration so we can use technology to solve our challenges locally and across the continent.”

During their visit to TACC, the team delved into modern HPC systems crucial for AI workflows worldwide. The immersive experience included visits to institutions like NASA and the University of Houston, providing invaluable exposure to bleeding-edge technology.

Ryan Rautenbach, advisory systems engineer for Dell Technologies South Africa, emphasises HPC’s power in driving AI and analytics: “As it becomes more accessible, HPC is enabling important discoveries and solving some of the most important challenges of our time.”

Photo: Students had to build mini-supercomputers for real-world scientific tasks.

Source: ITWeb