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Nearly two years have passed since The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) chose Mellanox FDR InfiniBand to assist it in its goal of providing high-end computing resources to the South African community. Given phased growth planning and the aspirations of both organisations, the interconnect solution from Mellanox Technologies is proving to be just as important today.
The CHPC is today amongst the fastest growing high performance computing (HPC) centres in the world. Based in Cape Town, it is a national facility created for the advantage of all users in South Africa.
“The facility caters for researchers from bio informatics, climate modelling, all the way through to chemistry material science and astronomy. We can be proud to call ourselves the biggest HPC facility on the African continent,” notes Dr Werner Janse van Rensburg, research manager at the CHPC.
The evolutionary nature of HPC, as new, disruptive technologies emerge, means that tomorrow’s technology may take architectures in new directions. A standards-based interconnect solution, such as InfiniBand, offers the highest promise of compatibility and interoperability with all of these emerging technologies.
Dr Happy Sithole, the director of CHPC, continues, “The heartbeat of the CHPC cluster is the interconnect. Everything is about how these processes shake hand and do their work. InfiniBand is the best that is required for our applications.”
Janse van Rensburg concurs: “InfiniBand and the interconnect is what defines HPC – that is how you enhance, or unlock the potential that you can obtain by combining a huge number of calls. It is enhancing and unlocking the system that is the main benefit.”
The phased growth plan for the CHPC system meant the interconnect strategy needed to span multiple generations of hardware and heterogeneous architecture. This made the Mellanox processor-agnostic approach to networks with native support for x86, Power, ARM, GPGPU and FPGA ideal. Critical too was Mellanox’ adherence to an open IBTA standard, which ensures computability in the future. In addition, running more jobs in less time saves money and, furthermore, the efficiency of Mellanox interconnect solutions is a green solution, providing the most productivity for a given amount of energy utilisation.
“Mellanox enables the highest data centre return on investment by providing the most efficient and scalable interconnect solutions,” adds Yael Birk Hoter-Ishay, director of Mellanox’ EMEA sales. “It enables users to achieve the highest application performance and maximises the productivity of their HPC infrastructure by running more applications in less time. This value proposition is enhanced by a combination of backwards and forwards compatibility, a clear and steady future roadmap, and the ability to support different vendor’s processors and accelerators.”
Faster data speeds and in-network computing offer the greatest application performance for a variety of HPC workloads and represent the key to achieving ROI. Greater performance means analysing data faster, gaining insights in real time and realising a competitive advantage. Novel resiliency protocols such as SHIELD and collective acceleration (in-network computing) methodologies defined by SHARP are just two of the differentiating values delivered by Mellanox InfiniBand.
“Mellanox was the best technology provider for the interconnect solution, providing our students with state-of-the-art technology,” confirms Sithole. “Now it is up to us to be proactive and promote the CHPC and find those users who will gain the most from utilising the facility – it is an exciting prospect.”
Networks Unlimited, the sole South African value-added distributor for Mellanox Technologies, provides CHPC and similar customers’ access to the full product portfolio. Anton Jacobsz, managing director at Networks Unlimited, points out: “Mellanox has a great team focused on ensuring that you can achieve what you need. The technical and management people are easily available for advice. The company has empowered its local business partners, confirming that there is always a straightforward support in place for South African clients.”
Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, deputy director-general: Research Development and Support at the South African national Department of Science and Technology, concludes: “The relationship that is established between industry who develops computational infrastructure, computational machinery, and the users, is critical to the progress of this technology. The bigger the investment, the greater is the need to ensure a comprehensive return on investment.
“The CHPC 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 competiveness of regions and nations.”