#Out&About: Inside the Zimbabwe High Performance Computing Centre

Big data cannot be processed by laptops and desktops that we all have. It needs super computers which process things fast such as the High Performance Computer at the Zimbabwe Centre for High Performance Computing.

According to SAS, big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not the amount of data that’s important.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

It’s what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.

Third largest in Africa after South Africa and Ghana, the HPC located at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare has connected the servers from all the country’s universities.

“The HPC is used by the Met Department. Ever since the Met Department started using it their weather forecasts have become more accurate,” said the HPC Senior Engineer Tendai Makosa.

Makosa also said the servers at the ZCHPC and the Met Department are connected.

“They use these physical servers. The kind of connection they are using are the point to point VPNs. So there is a link between this facility and the Met Department. So they can use it 24/7 anytime of the day to process their data, short term to long term weather forecast,” he said.

Some of the bootcamp trainees

The ZCHPC has the most secured infrastructure and processors to prevent the big data from being hacked.

“In terms of security, it is the most secure. I can safely say we are sitting at 99, 999percent. Of course with security you can never be 100 percent secure.

“A lot has been invested in terms of firewalls and network infrastructure to thwart the hackers or any intruder that may try to hack the system,” he said.

:We also value intellectual property. We don’t divulge any research or data to outsiders without the permission of the original researcher. So we are very secure,” said Eng Makosa. “The centre currently has about 35 users. All our universities are connected here and some government departments like SIRDC, National Bio Authority, the Met Department and many others are already using this facility.”

He also said plans are underway to procure a huge storage space for researchers to store data.

“Universities use this facility to process their research data. In the long term we are also going to offer storage as a service. We are going to purchase 1 Petabyte of storage so that beside the computing muscle we also offer storage as a service.

We are offering a limited storage which is 60 Terabytes so they can store at max seven days. But with time we tend to invest more in the storage so that we can store for a longer period of time,” he said.

Makosa added that over $10 million was spent to construct the facility.

“This facility including the infrastructure, the generator and all cost us about $10 million,” he said.

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