CHPC Cape Town: Compute to Compete

Compute to Compete was certainly the theme of the day as I joined Ms Naledi Pandor Minister of Science and Technology for South Africa at the launch of our latest Sun Constellation System and Africa's largest supercomputer at CHPC in Cape Town.

Just a few short months ago, Sun launched the first of our second generation Sun Constellation System at the Jülich Supercomputer Center in Germany. Since then, similar Sun Constellation System supercomputers have been installed in North and South America, in Australia, and in Asia. Today's launch at CHPC brings Open Petascale Computing to a sixth continent, bringing state of the art supercomputing to Africa.

At each Sun Constellation System launch I attend, as I meet with government, education, and industry executives, I hear a common theme, the growing need to compute to compete. While we didn't compare notes prior to the launch, Minister Pandor used the phrase outcompute to outcompete in reference to her government's investment in CHPC as well as South Africa's ongoing competition with Australia to host the Square Kilometer Array project.

CHPC is quite proud of their green IT efforts, and like the Sun Constellation System I described in my blog Jülich Underground, CHPC uses Sun's Glacier passive water cooled doors to save 25% or more of the electricity normally used to cool a data center, a first as far as we know for any African data center. Ironically, CHPC is built on the site of an old ocean fish research lab, and several large walk-in freezers were removed in the renovation of the old lab into data center space. And while they won't freeze fish, the Sun Constellation System's Glacier doors are definitely more efficient in data center cooling than the old freezers. Of course, Sun Constellation System technology is not limited to HPC clusters and having read in the local paper this morning a report estimating South Africa would have to increase electrical generation capacity by 20 Gigawatts by 2020, I couldn't help but comment to Minister Pandor to think how that amount could be reduced if all data centers in South Africa used similar passive cooling technology.

Besides Green IT, another major thrust of CHPC is the use of open source software. Their new Sun Constellation System uses the Sun HPC Software, Linux Edition including the latest versions of Sun Grid Engine software and the Sun Lustre File System.

CHPC also followed the lead of other Sun HPC customers such as HPCVL in Canada and installed a Sun M9000 system, with 256 UltraSPARC CPU cores and 2 TB of memory which will be used to run large share memory codes for computational fluid dynamics research as well as other research requiring a large shared memory system. Running the open source Solaris operating system, the M9000 will provide users a similar HPC environment as the Sun Constellation System including Sun Grid Engine and NFS access to the Lustre file system.

Anyone who thinks Africa isn't ready for world class HPC had better think again!

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