The launch of Africa’s fastest computer is already improving South Africa’s competitiveness in the research and development space.
Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, the Deputy Director-General for Research Development and Support at the Department of Science and Technology, said this when he unveiled Lenyau, which is dubbed Africa’s fastest computer, at the CSIR’s Centre for High Performance Computing, on Tuesday.
Lenyau is a Setswana name for a cheetah, which is the fastest animal in the wild.
Auf der Heyde said high performance computing contributes to economic growth.
“For our country to grow at the required rate, as set out in the National Development Plan, it needs to change gear by building capacity in the production and dissemination of knowledge.
“The Centre for High Performance Computing represents a deliberate move by this country to invest in modernising our research and development.
“High performance computing and advanced data technologies are powerful tools in enhancing the competitiveness of regions and nations,” he said.
The “super computer” has a processing speed capable of a thousand-trillion floating point operations per second. Floating point operations or flops are used in computing to calculate extremely long numbers.
Dr Happy Sithole, the Director of the Centre or High Performance Computing, said by being the fastest computer in Africa, the Lenyau now gives scientists in the research, technology and innovation space an opportunity to conduct their research locally without having to travel abroad for higher performance computing infrastructure.
Sithole said in simple terms, the computer, built in collaboration with Dell South Africa, is approximately 40 000 times faster than the normal Dell i3 processor laptop that is used by many South Africans at home and at work.
“When we started in 2007, we took inspiration from the fastest animals in the land and named our first high performance computing system IQudu, which boasted 2.5 teraflops – which is 2.5 million operations per second.
“In 2009, there was increased demand of computational resources, and a new high performance computing system dubbed the Tsessebe was launched.
“It boasted 24.9 teraflops and became number 311 on the TOP500 super computers, and ranked number one in the African continent.
“The system was later upgraded to 64.44 teraflops,” he said.
The super-fast system has already been used in several fields of research – from climate modelling by the CSIR, bioinformatics by the University of Cape Town to material science by the University of Limpopo and astronomy by South Africa’s SKA office.
Mary Jane Bopape, a researcher at the CSIR, said the new system has reduced research times on climate modelling that used to take them up to three hours to just under 30 minutes.
“With the new system, we have a lot more processors than we had before.
“With that, we are able to make simulations quicker. The climate change simulations you make are supposed to run over a long time,” she said, adding that with the new system, this was no longer the case. – SAnews.gov.za