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CSIR partners with Cambridge and Dell

The CSIR, Cambridge University and Dell have teamed up to drive innovations focused on some of the world’s most challenging issues. The companies plan to do this by using the most powerful computing cluster in Africa.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, Cambridge University, Eclipse Holdings and Dell announced a partnership to expand access to research computing solutions and expertise, enabling researchers to drive innovations focused on some of the world’s most challenging issues prevalent to the region. Drought and climate change as well as HIV and malaria are just some of the issues they plan to address by leveraging the most powerful, high performance computing cluster in Africa.

The data centre will be used for research rendering by all academic and research institutions worldwide, with a particular focus on earth science, including climate change and its impact on Africa’s agriculture. Previously, researchers in Africa borrowed or purchased compute time from institutions throughout the world to conduct their studies. This often restricted the research capabilities on issues that are crucial to the continent. Perceptions of Africa are changing as the continent is gradually entering the global socio-economic landscape. However, issues such as HIV/AIDS and malaria have always plagued the continent and thereby impacting its development. As a result of the supercomputer the CSIR is now able to conduct research with the continent’s specific needs as a priority.

In looking for a technology partner the CHPC specifically required a vendor that would be able to provide strong knowledge and skills transfer that would be backed with support services that spans from the basic break fix service all the way to optimising the infrastructure to ensure that maximum performance is consistently achieved. The new high performance computing cluster (HPC), built in collaboration with researchers at Dell/Cambridge University HPC Solution Centre, features 260 Dell PowerEdge C servers as well as Infiniband switches and services provided by Dell. The solution was installed and integrated by Cambridge University and Eclipse Holdings in a record three weeks ‚ one of the fastest installations of its kind which also beat the deadline by a day.

When tested at the CHPC for the Top 500, this high performance computer performed the fastest calculation ever in Africa, with a score of 56.5 teraflops, this is a 77% efficiency. It is expected that this will put Africa at the forefront of the Top 500 list expected to be released in December.


‚Africa has genuine problems that can only be solved with the aid of high performance research computing resources,‚ said Dr. Happy Sithole, director, Center of High Performance Cluster Computing (CHPC) in South Africa. ‚It is time that Africa had access to this kind of technology and, by partnering with Dell, we have been able to overcome the traditional barriers of entry in our launch of a supercomputing solution. This HPC solution will be a central resource from which researchers across many disciplines in Africa can benefit, to the advantage of everyone in Africa.‚

‚We are privileged to have both the skill and the experience which proudly allows us to continue our existing business relationship with the CSIR’s national High Performance Computing facility,‚ said Nico Meintjes, chief executive officer, Eclipse Holdings. ‚It was however Dell’s ‘can and will do‚ commitment to the project as well as our HPC partnership with Cambridge University that made us break all records in installing and integrating the CSIR’s HPC infrastructure in three weeks ‚ from date of order to successful LINPAC testing. This has to my knowledge, never been done before.‚

‚When data is managed and leveraged through the increased accessibility and affordability of research computing, we see life changing results,‚ said Paul Bell, president of Public and Large Enterprise, Dell. ‚We have already seen how the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research team is achieving this with their research and how they are using technology to drive innovation.‚

‚Dell South Africa is proud to have partnered with Cambridge University and Eclipse Holdings to provide the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa with the fastest super computer in Africa,‚ said Stewart van Graan, general manager of Dell Africa and managing director of Dell South Africa. Africa is a continent with unlimited potential and hopefully this high performance computer can help the continent realise this potential once crippling problems such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and climate change are addressed as a result of the research conducted by the CSIR team using this technology. I would also like to compliment my team at Dell who ensured that they were ahead of the competition every step of the way and despite the tight deadlines to enter this solution in the TOP 500, not only met the deadline but completed a day ahead of schedule.‚

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