New Dell HPC System Drives New Research, Innovations and National Economic Benefits in South Africa


This week I had the pleasure of participating in and Dell powering our customer and longtime collaborator, the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), which is part of South Africa’s   Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), as they unveiled the FASTEST computer on the African continent and a future Top-500 class system. It was an honor to represent Dell’s HPC teams at the launch event, only a few short days after we joined the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin to celebrate its own new Dell HPC System and milestones.

CHPC’s Dell-powered “Lengau” System (“Cheetah” in Setswana) provides high performance computing access and will help drive new research, new innovations and new national economic benefits in a country filled with both talent and opportunity. While Lengau surely benefits from the latest technology advancements, the most important benefit is that it will enable new opportunities and avenues in cutting edge research (such as the Square Kilometer Array) and will provide the computational capacity to build the private sector and non-academic user base of the CHPC to help spur national economic growth.

Lengau boasts a speed of roughly one petaflops (1,000 teraflops or 1,000 Trillion floating point operations per second)–15 times faster than the CHPC’s previous system and, yet, within a smaller footprint and consuming less energy. The new system is comprised of 1,039 Dell PowerEdge servers, based on Intel Xeon processors, totaling 19 racks of compute nodes and storage. It has a total Dell Storage capacity of five petabytes, and uses Dell Networking Ethernet switches and Mellanox EDR InfiniBand with a maximum interconnect speed of 56 GB/s.

Compared to the previous system, Lengau will now provide access to compute resources for users, scientist and innovators, who had limited or no access to the resources in the past due to capacity constraints. Additionally, it will enable high performance for large-scale simulations that were impossible in the past, opening completely new avenues of research and, ultimately, enabling human potential.

But this event was much more than about products–it also was about people. Educating the next generation of students on the capabilities and possibilities of HPC is just as critical as introducing new technologies. What use is the technology if no one is using it to learn or innovate? To that end, CHPC and Dell are co-sponsoring Team South Africa as they compete for a winning title at this year’s Student Cluster Competition at the International Supercomputing Show (ISC), June 20-22 in Frankfurt Germany. The 5th annual competition, organized by HPC Advisory Council and ISC, features teams of six undergraduate and/or high school students who build a small compute cluster of their own design on the ISC exhibit floor and race to demonstrate the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications.

In preparation for the competition, Team South Africa spent a week at Dell’s Round Rock campus to meet with HPC experts;  check out our next-generation HPC innovations and clustered systems designs, thermal labs; and receive hands-on tutorials and feedback sessions from Dell design teams. I am very confident in the skills of these brilliant minds and can’t wait to see how they do in Frankfurt at ISC!

As Dell continues to democratize HPC and grow our HPC customer business, we have plenty of exciting new things on the horizon to discuss during ISC. I hope you’ll come by and visit the HPC team and me in Frankfurt later this month or watch this space as we have MUCH more to come!

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