South Africa has unveiled the fastest super computer on the continent, Footprint to Africa reports.
The launch of the computer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at Stellenbosch 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 language word for a cheetah, which is the fastest animal in the wild.
“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 added.
“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.”
The super computer has a processing speed capable of a thousand-trillion floating point operations per second (petaflop). Floating point operations or flops are used in computing to calculate extremely large 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,” he added.
“In 2009, there was increased demand of computational resources, and a new high performance computing system dubbed the Tsessebewas 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.”
The super-fast system has already been used in several fields of research — from climate modelling by the CSIR, bio-informatics by the University of Cape Town to material science by the University of Limpopo and astronomy by South Africa’s SKA (Square Kilometre Array) telescope project.
Mary Jane Bopape, a researcher at the CSIR, said the new system had 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.