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South Africa Expands Supercomputer with Sun Hardware

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. The CHPC is managed by the Meraka Institute, the African Advanced Institute for Information and Communication Technology.

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

The core of the system, which consists of a Sun SPARC Enterprise M9000 server with 64 SPARC64 VII quad-core processors and a cluster of four Sun Blade 6048 Modular Systems, will be delivered in two stages. Stage one consists of one Sun Blade 6048 Modular System with 48 blades based on Intel Xeon E5450 processors; 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 10 AMD Opteron-powered Sun Fire X4540 Open Storage servers, providing 480 terabytes of data with Sun's Lustre parallel file system.

The components will be connected via a Voltaire Infiniband switch. Software for the solution consists of Sun HPC software, Linux Edition, Sun xVM Ops Center, and applications from TotalView Technologies.

Hardware for the CHPC is being assembled in Scotland and the United States and will then be shipped to South Africa for installation and integration by Eclipse Networks and Breakpoint Solutions, two partners of Sun based in South Africa.

Sun and its partners won the work to provide the infrastructure for phase II of the high performance computing facility in South Africa after the CHPC received funding for the project from the South African Department of Science and Technology.

"Part of the project is the skills transfer that will take place to CHPC resources," said Stefan Jacobs, systems practice solution architect for Sun. "This will start during the actual build process and will be followed with a formal training program in 2009 designed to provide local skills that will be critical to the success of the center," explains Jacobs.

The CHPC will be used for research in such areas as energy alternatives, weather prediction, and healthcare.

"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," said 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."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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