Sanren halfway completed

Farzana Rasool
By Farzana Rasool, ITWeb IT in Government Editor.
Johannesburg, 18 Nov 2011

The first phase of the SA National Research Network (Sanren) is now complete.

This was announced by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR's) Meraka Institute and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) yesterday.

It follows the completion and commissioning of the Cape Town metropolitan fibre network, and the completion of 10Gbps links to each of the South African Large Telescope (SALT) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope sites.

Halfway there

Sanren is a high-speed network that aims to connect more than 200 research and tertiary sites around the country with one another, as well as with international research and education organisations around the globe.

The first phase of the project connects 105 institutions with the 10Gbps link. This translates into 23 educational institutions, eight science councils and seven national facilities, and a total of 450 000 users.

Total investment in Sanren for phase one has been R429 million, including funding to connect the SALT and SKA sites.

By the end of financial year 2012/13, a total of R787 million will have been invested in the national Sanren network roll-out, which includes the national backbone network, metropolitan area networks, backbone network extensions, connections to the SALT and SKA sites, and associated equipment acquisition costs.

Large database

Sanren is part of the DST's national cyber infrastructure initiative and complements the Centre for High Performance Computing and the Very Large Database curation project.

The overall network architecture consists of a national backbone connecting Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and back to Durban on a 10Gbps ring network.

Metro rings have been installed in Johannesburg, Tshwane, eThekwini and Cape Town, according to the CSIR.

The second phase of the Sanren project will be to extend the backbone to more remote sites, including Polokwane, Grahamstown, Makhado and Mafikeng.

Sanren provides international connectivity via the Seacom submarine cable.

Fastest African PC

The CSIR also announced yesterday that SA now hosts one of the top 500 fastest computers in the world and the best on the continent.

This computer is hosted at the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) of the CSIR, in Cape Town.

The CHPC's Tsessebe Sun Constellation System took 329th place in the international Top 500 list of computers and number one in Africa.

The Tsessebe Cluster last held a place in the Top 500 list in May 2010, ranking at 461.

“This follows shortly after the upgrade of the machine in October this year from a Linpack performance score of 25 Teraflops to 61 Teraflops. The system is made up of Oracle's Sunblade X6275 blades with Intel Nehalem eight-core processors and Westmere 12-core processors, as well as Dell's Poweredge C6100 servers with Intel Westmere 12-core processors. The Tsessebe has a theoretical peak performance of 74 Teraflops,” says the CSIR.

African researchers from academia and industry now have a facility that is able to process over 60 trillion cycles of instruction per second. This enables the CHPC to enhance significant research, address grand challenges and develop computational research into a viable mode alongside experiment and theory across all academic disciplines, adds the council.

It adds that this rating of the supercomputer comes as SA bolsters its commitment to host the SKA.