Fastest computer in Africa unveiled in Cape Town

07 June 2016 - 19:34 By Deneesha Pillay

The fastest computer on the African continent was launched at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Cape Town on Tuesday. Unveiled by the CSIR’s Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC)‚ the petaflops machine has been named Lengau‚ which is a Setswana name for Cheetah.In a statement the CSIR said that “this is a super computer with processing speed capable of a thousand-trillion floating point operations (flops) per second”.Flops are used in computing to calculate extremely long numbers.Housed at the CSIR‚ the computer will be utilised by a number of stakeholders for extensive research in bioinformatics or life sciences‚ climate modelling‚ material sciences‚ astronomy and industrial solutions‚ among others.The idea would be to crunch down large amounts of data into useful and valuable information.The event‚ which hosted a number of stakeholders‚ partners of the operation and researchers‚ included a tour of the facility and the unveiling of Lengau.Standing in for Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor‚ Dr Thomas Auf Heyde‚ who is Deputy Director-General for Research Development and Support at the department‚ unveiled the computer‚ saying it marked a pivotal moment of innovation for South Africa. “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‚” he said.Jim Ganthier‚ Vice President of Dell and General Manager for Dell’s Engineered Solutions and Cloud business‚ simplified what this innovation means for the country.“We like to think of it as time to innovation‚ time to research‚ time to answer.“When you think about some of the calculations that were being done for astrophysics‚ what used to take months of calculations we can now do in a couple of days‚” he said.Dr Happy Sithole‚ Director of CHPC‚ while detailing the journey of unveiling the computer‚ said that because of Lengua‚ South Africa is now “playing in the international sphere”.“Our approach in South Africa is to introduce innovation that is relevant for our needs. Our output must remain relevant to our community‚” Sithole said.“We had to look at the technology and the ambitious requirements of the users and researchers but beyond that we looked at the relevance of this high performance computing system.“It’s like building a fast car‚ you can make sure that its fast‚ but you need to also make sure that it can do meaningful work‚” Sithole added. “As a side of pride‚ it’s not only the fastest petaflop in Africa‚ but we anticipate that it’s going to be the one hundred and fiftieth fastest super-computer in the world” Ganthier said.“It’s not just an African story it will become a global story‚” he added.

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