A $1,6-million Blue Gene supercomputer is on track for delivery to South Africa in the second half of this year, and will be used for research.
The supercomputer, the first of its kind in Africa, has been donated by IBM. This move follows a recent meeting between IBM Fellow and vice president: Research, Dr Mark Dean, and Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, president and CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The Blue Gene/P system, capable of making 14-trillion calculations per second, will be the most powerful supercomputer on the continent to be used for scientific research. Access to the computer will be free of charge to any qualifying African institution. Its aim is to support computational research that has potential for positive social or economic outcomes for Africa.
Many universities globally, and government research laboratories, have deployed the Blue Gene supercomputer for computational studies in defence research, radio astronomy, protein folding, climate research, cosmology, and drug development.
Blue Gene customers note that “time-to-solution” for many applications has been reduced significantly. Scientists can make new runs more often, allowing them to explore alternative models and approaches to problems.
The supercomputer will be managed by the CSIR’s Meraka Institute at the Centre for High-Performance Computing, a major Department of Science and Technology initiative, based in Cape Town, South Africa.
Dr Sibisi says: "The CSIR envisaged that the initial user candidates were likely to be in the field of climate modelling, bioinformatics and materials science, all of which have direct linkages to key social and economic outcomes.
"A key thrust of the Department of Science & Technology is to develop research capacity in South Africa, and to promote collaboration across the African continent that would benefit all stakeholders. We are delighted to have IBM as a partner on this initiative."
Dr Dean adds: "While a Blue Gene system has massive computational capacity, it is the opportunity to partner with the CSIR and the CHPC, and particularly to think that this initiative could ultimately help in some way with food production, or disease control, or minerals beneficiation in Africa, that really excites IBM."
The supercomputer is currently being assembled in the US and will be shipped to South Africa in the second half of this year.