- Bob Jones, EGEE Project Director
I was recently invited to attend this event hosted by the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and Bringing Europe's eLectronic Infrastructure to Expanding Frontiers (BELIEF) to present EGEE/EGI. The programme is described here: http://www.chpcconf.co.za/index.cfm?x=programme
Government involvement in the event was via the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST), who highlighted the recent start-up in South Africa of Africa’s most powerful supercomputer, a 28 teraflop HPC system – rated at 311 in the November 2009 top 500 list.
A total of 370 participants took part during the week, which kicked off with plenary sessions, followed by break-out sessions on specific subjects later in the week. The plenary sessions were also streamed over the Internet by the GLOBAL project: http://vcc.dit.upm.es/spaces/global/events/84
The CHPC is the dominant HPC organisation in South, featuring an E1350 IBM Linux cluster with 160 nodes (2.5Tflop, 94Tb storage) and BlueGene (11.5Ftlops, 94TB storage, 1024 nodes). The data management aspects of the national e-infrastructure are highly important and their plan includes a Very Large DB proposal. CHPC itself has not yet become directly involved in the South African National Grid, SAGrid, and during the conference a number of representatives questioned the advantages, but the users seemed more convinced. Seven universities have joined the SAGrid, which is based on EGEE middleware and operational procedures, and is very similar to the Italian national structure due to close links with INFN. SAGrid is very keen to work with EGI and has also held EGEE co-sponsored training events using the GILDA testbed. SAGrid has been featured in International Science Grid This Week: http://www.isgtw.org/?pid=1001900.
A number of user communities are already active, notably HEP and life sciences with others gradually coming on-board. The South African organisations seem keen to learn from the experiences gained in Europe, in order to get an interoperable national e-infrastructure involving supercomputing, grids and networks, up to speed as quickly as possible. SANReN is the South African National Research Network and is expanding the network, with 10Gbs links established as a backbone across four universities in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban and improved connection to Europe.
One of the key points to consider for the future is that I think SAGrid will want to establish a connection to EGI. The user communities already have to links to Europe, so will probably also be interested in working with the Virtual Research Communities.