Accelerating research: HPC training at UCT

3 Dec 2015 - 15:15
Photo: High Performance Computing UCT

Thanks to enormous advances in information and communication technology (ICT) in the last decade, researchers in every discipline, and at every level, are working with data sets of a size previously inconceivable. A challenge for researchers, particularly postgraduate and emerging researchers, is that while the technology may exist to manage these data sets, they may not be adequately equipped to use these technologies.  The eResearch Centre seeks to fill this skills gap by offering both a beginner’s and advanced course on High Performance Computing (HPC).

HPC is a broad term referring to any computational activity that requires more than a single computer to execute a specific task. This includes the use of super-computers and computer clusters. HPC offers researchers the capacity to handle and analyse enormous data sets at very high speeds. With the use of HPC, tasks that would normally have taken weeks or months can be reduced to a matter of hours.  But for many researchers, especially those with little to no computational background, HPC can be daunting. 

In the basic course, HPC specialists Timothy Carr and Andrew Lewis, provide an introduction to Linux, the operating system through which the HPC facilities are run. In this course you will get an overview of what kind of HPC facilities the eResearch Centre offers, learn the difference between a CPU (Central Processing Unit) and a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and learn how to submit jobs to the HPC scheduler, among other things. The advanced course in HPC is aimed at researchers who are already familiar with HPC facilities either at UCT or elsewhere. This course runs through more advanced concepts in HPC such as interactive job submission and parametric jobs as well as offering insight into software and storage, including common network file systems, types of storage and data transfer.

The first Basic Course was held on the 25 February and received positive feedback.  Dr Jaisubash Jayakumar, a medical researcher, signed up to strengthen his limited computing skills in order to use HPC effectively. He says he found the course very useful and is confident he will be able to put his newly acquired HPC skills to good use. Simon Broadley, from the Clinical Laboratory Sciences, signed up for the course to ensure he is ready when he gets to the data analysis section of his research project. “I thought the course was a great introduction to Linux,” he says. “The level was definitely easy enough for fist timers, but also moved at a good pace so those with prior Linux experience did not get bored.” 

Story by Natalie Simon