SA Linux supercomputer to aid HIV research

By   |  December 12, 2006

South Africa’s department of science and technology, Intel and the Meraka Institute yesterday unveiled a new high performance computer (HPC) designed to assist in HIV and Aids research.

The HPC, based at the CSIR’s Meraka Institute in Pretoria was officially switched on by deputy minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom and visiting Intel chairman Craig Barrett.

The supercomputer uses a cluster of 32 dual-processor servers powered by Intel Itanium 2 processors and 32 dual-processor servers with Intel Xeon processors, running Red Hat Linux Advanced Server.

The system performs at a theoretical peak of 870 billion floating point operations per second (gigaFLOPS). That sort of performance doesn’t warrant a listing among the world’s top supercomputers but it does make it one of the country’s most powerful machines.

“Intel, together with its partners including HP, has donated technology that can make a huge difference to the important work of the South African bio and medical informatics community,” Hanekom said. “This supercomputer provides a scalable solution that can help accelerate finding a cure for harsh diseases by handling complex data-intensive processing for experiments measuring tens of thousands of data points in hundreds of thousands of samples.”

“The rising spread of communicable diseases threatens South Africa’s livelihood and economy,” Barrett said. “This high-performance computing system will push the limits of scientific discovery to accelerate the creation of treatments and cures.”

The supercomputer will initially research HIV vaccine definitions, process image analysis of health-related data and perform protein structure protection analysis.

The HPC will also be used for research into other areas such as climate change. According to the HPC centre it expects to develop new, region-specific climate change scenarios for 2025, among other research.

Intel has also committed to assist the South African bio- and medical informatics research community to port and optimise its applications for the computer using Intel software compilers, libraries and performance tools.

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