Advancing High-Performance Computing in South Africa: The CHPC

Established in 2007, the CHPC is mandated to provide high performance computing (HPC) resources and domain specific support to both public and private sector users. In 2016, the CHPC introduced a peta-scale machine, with almost 33 000 cores. The machine was the fastest supercomputer in Africa and at launch was ranked 121st amongst the world TOP500 supercomputers. A peta-scale machine is a super computer with processing speeds capable of a thousand-trillion floating-point operations (FLOPS) per second. FLOPS are used in computing to compute extremely long numbers. The system, named LENGAU (Setswana name for Cheetah), owing to its speed of 1 000 Teraflops, is 15 times faster than the previous system of the centre. In 2018 the compute resources at the CHPC were expanded to include a Graphical Processor Unit (GPU) cluster consisting of 30 state of the art V100 GPUs.

The CHPC is providing leadership to South Africa and Africa in developing strong high-performance computing capabilities and supporting large-scale science projects. The Tier-2 CERN service provides 2 400 jobs per day to the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). In support of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) partner countries, the CHPC has provided training and computational clusters to Botswana, Madagascar, Namibia, Zambia, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya and Mauritius. To date, the University of Venda, Sol Plaatjie University, University of Fort Hare, the University of the Witwatersrand, Hartbeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory and Stellenbosch University have received training and equipment for small-scale processing.

Human capital development is critical to the sustainability of cyberinfrastructure and the CHPC provides high-end skills, relevant to the respective science and engineering domains of the research community. One of the CHPC’s flagship projects, the Student Cluster Competition, continues to produce world-class undergraduate students with HPC skills. Through the Student Cluster Competition, the CHPC has secured top accolades at the international level for years since 2013 with a number of overall wins. The annual CHPC National Conference is also an important flagship project that contributes to human capital development and is a platform for sharing and feedback from the users of the infrastructure and the international and domestic stakeholders. The 2019 conference was attended by about 700 delegates.

The industry programme at CHPC focuses on providing services such as stable and reliable high-performance computing systems, world-class consultancy in the areas of fluid-dynamics, materials science, finite-element analysis, discrete element modelling and general design of high-performance systems, optimised for specific clients. These services are currently used by South African industries in oil and gas, mining, engineering designs and weather forecasting.

Key Strategic Initiatives: CHPC

  1. Engage with the research community in order to provide support for HPC relevant applications. Constantly pursue the developments in HPC and related computing services and to test and validate new technologies for future through the ACELab
  2. Contribute to research and development and operational competitiveness of the South African industry through the use of high performance computing, simulation and modelling. Collaboration will be pursued with petrochemical, mining, engineering and bioinformatics companies
  3. Lead HPC Ecosystems development in South Africa and SADC region and continue to position South Africa’s HPC contribution to large-scale science projects by supporting SKA, CERN, H3ABionet and Climate Change initiatives
  4. Provide and maintain leading national HPC systems and services to research communities; to be the national HPC centre; and develop and support necessary HPC education and advocacy in the country and the SADC region
  5. Engage with the private sector and increase relevance of advanced cyberinfrastructure to South African industry.