Sun to deploy South Africa's largest supercomputer at the Centre for High Performance Computing

Computing

Sun Microsystems has initiated the rollout of South Africa's largest high performance computing solution at the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in Cape Town, with local partners Eclipse Networks and Breakpoint Solutions.

This follows from the award of the CHPC second phase tender to Sun Microsystems and its partners to provide the infrastructure for Phase II of this world-class high performance computing facility in South Africa. The CHPC is funded by the South African Department of Science and Technology, and managed by the Meraka Institute of the CSIR.

Says Stefan Jacobs, South and Eastern Europe (SEE) systems practice solution architect for Sun, “The deployment of the infrastructure for Phase II at the CHPC, forms part of fulfilling the government’s goal to position South Africa as a beacon of research on the continent and meeting CHPC's mission to enable South Africa to become globally competitive through the effective use of high-end IS infrastructure. In doing so, the needs for the development of high-end IT skills in the region have been identified and Sun is working towards supporting these goals with its local partners.”

The proposed end-to-end solution is based on a hybrid architecture that provides an estimated 27 teraFLOPS of peak computing power.

At the core of this computing power, is a Sun SPARC Enterprise® M9000 server with 64 SPARC64® VII quad-core processors, and a cluster of four Sun Blade™ 6048 Modular Systems, to be delivered in two stages. Stage one consists of one Sun Blade 6048 Modular System with 48 blades based on Intel® Xeon® E5450 processors, and stage two consists of three Sun Blade 6048 Modular Systems that house 144 blades based on the next-generation Intel® Xeon® processor. (code named Nehalem).

At the front-end, Sun will be providing the CHPC with the Sun™ Visualization system which allows for users to assemble and view 3D models of their data. The Open Storage solution is based on ten AMD Opteron™-powered Sun Fire™ X4540 Open Storage servers, providing 480 Terabytes of data with the Lustre™ parallel file system for extreme I/O performance and reliability.

Rounding the hardware part of the solution out, all of the components will be connected via a Voltaire Infiniband switch. Software for the solution consists of Sun's HPC software, Linux Edition, Sun™ xVM Ops Center and software from Totalview.

Hardware for the CHPC is being assembled in Scotland and the USA and will then be shipped to South Africa for installation and integration by Eclipse Networks and Breakpoint Solutions.

“Part of the project is the skills transfer that will take place to CHPC resources. This will start during the actual build process and will be followed with a formal training programme in 2009 designed to provide local skills that will be critical to the success of the centre,” explains Jacobs.

The CHPC is an invaluable resource for research in Africa, bolstering work being done in energy alternatives, weather prediction, healthcare and other key areas of research.

“For example, research is being conducted at the University of Limpopo in South Africa relating to Lithium crystals, used in high energy-density solid-state lithium-ion batteries,” says Jacobs. “This research aims to improve battery technology to deliver cost effective and long-term power solutions. The research relies on computational modeling methods that benefit greatly from the incredible processing power available at the CHPC.”