UCT leads high performance computing discussion

27 July 2009

SARCH Looking forward: At the workshop on high performance computing were (back from left) Dr Bruce Becker (CHPC), Sakkie Janse van Rensburg (UCT), Albert van Eck (UFS), and (front) Dorah Thobye (CHPC) and Dr Jeff Chen (CHPC).

Universities and research organisations need to collaborate and share knowledge and expertise if they are to attract top class students and deliver quality research.

This is the view of Sakkie Janse van Rensburg, Executive Director of the University of Cape Town's Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS) department. His vision is shared by other South African IT Directors, who formed the High Performance Computing Special Interest Group (HPC SIG), under the auspices of the Association of South African Universities Directors in Information Technology (ASAUDIT), to drive collaboration through a number of special interest groups. Van Rensburg is co-ordinator of the HPC SIG.

"We are rolling out grid computing services by linking high-performance computing (HPC) clusters across the country. The South African Grid (SAGrid) will provide secure distributed computing services to research groups, and enable South African universities to compete on an equal footing internationally," said Van Rensburg, speaking at a recent two-day workshop co-hosted by the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and the Meraka Institute.

The workshop, held at the CHPC, was attended by 22 representatives from 10 educational institutions, the Tertiary Education Network (TENET), the CHPC and the Meraka Institute.

The SAGrid will run on the South African National Research Network (SANRen), which is heavily funded by the government's Department of Science and Technology. Although seen primarily as a tool to enable research, the SAGrid will also develop scarce skills and knowledge in the computational sciences, possibly resulting in the creation of new academic programmes.

The first sites are operational, and undergoing commissioning and testing. Two senior engineers from UCT's ICTS department, who attended an intensive HPC administrator course in Catania, Italy, will administer the SAGrid's core services from the UCT data centre.

"We are helping to build a platform that will break down institutional barriers, enable world-class research and position us as credible partners in the global knowledge market", says Van Rensburg.

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