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KazNU and its Supercomputer

Al-Farabi University hopes its supercomputer to be among world’s top 500

Friday 2 February 2018, by Babak KHANDANI

ASTANA (KazInform) – A supercomputer granted by the Chinese Government will become the core of KazNU Technology Park. When implemented, the project will allow creating a unified data processing centre for all tertiary institutions in Kazakhstan and members of the Alliance. The centre will render digital services and carry out High-performance computing (HPC) for research projects. KazNU expects that its supercomputer will become a powerful computing resource and one of the world’s top 500 supercomputers.

In 2015, President Nazarbayev suggested his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to create a world-class technology park, a Kazakhstan’s analogue of the Silicon Valley, at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. The KazNU joined forces with the University Alliance of the Silk Road, which unites over 130 universities, to turn this idea into reality. The ambitious project was supported by the Alliance Executive Committee and Russia’s Skolkovo which wants to cooperate with KazNU in the sphere of innovations, science and high technologies.

Supercomputers

Sunway TaihuLight
This Chinese supercomputer is, as of November 2017, ranked number one in the TOP500 list as the fastest supercomputer in the world. With a LINPACK benchmark rating of 93 petaflops. it is nearly three times as fast as the previous holder of the record, the Tianhe-2, which ran at 34 petaflops. As of June 2017, it is ranked as the 16th most energy-efficient supercomputer in the Green500, with an efficiency of 6.051 GFlops/watt. It was designed by the National Research Centre of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC) and is located at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi in the city of Wuxi, in Jiangsu province.

A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of computing performance compared to a general-purpose computer. Performance of a supercomputer is measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS). As of 2017, there are supercomputers which can perform up to nearly a hundred quadrillions of FLOPS, measured in P(eta)FLOPS. Additional, state of the art research is being conducted in China, United States, European Union, Taiwan and Japan to build even more faster, powerful and technologically superior exascale supercomputers.

Supercomputers play an important role in the field of computational science, and are used for a wide range of computationally intensive tasks in various fields, including quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, climate research, oil and gas exploration, molecular modelling (computing the structures and properties of chemical compounds, biological macromolecules, polymers, and crystals), and physical simulations (such as simulations of the early moments of the universe, airplane and spacecraft aerodynamics, the detonation of nuclear weapons, and nuclear fusion). Throughout their history, they have been essential in the field of cryptanalysis.

The US has long been a leader in the supercomputer field, first through Cray’s almost uninterrupted dominance of the field, and later through a variety of technology companies. Japan made major strides in the field in the 1980s and 90s, but since then China has become increasingly important. As of June 2016, the fastest supercomputer on the TOP500 supercomputer list is the Sunway TaihuLight, in China, with a LINPACK benchmark score of 93 PFLOPS, exceeding the previous record holder, Tianhe-2, by around 59 PFLOPS. Sunway TaihuLight’s emergence is also notable for its use of indigenous chips, and is the first Chinese computer to enter the TOP500 list without using hardware from the United States. As of June 2016, China, for the first time, had more computers (167) on the TOP500 list than the United States (165). However, US built computers held ten of the top 20 positions as of November 2017, the U.S. has four of the top 10 and China two.

KazNU and smart technologies

Al-Farabi University has the mission to form highly qualified specialists competitive on domestic and international labour market. In this order, it has the ambition to become one of the world’s TOP-200 leading research universities. To achieve this, KazNU tries to transformation itself from a classical national university into a research university of world class.

Moreover, KazNU will focus on introducing smart technologies into its day-to-day functioning, smart technologies into its campus infrastructure management, Big Data technologies into shaping its analytical system, development of IT services outsourcing and so on.

A new IT School of the university that has been unveiled this year will train IT specialists in the sphere of high technologies. The fact that such tech giants as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Konika Minolta, Fujitsu, Huawei, Samsung, and Kaspersky Lab opened their centres at the university proves KazNU is on the frontline of IT education in Kazakhstan. As a strategic partner of the university, Microsoft is to introduce its business analytics service Microsoft Power B. It is to be recalled that KazNU was the only CIS university to make a presentation of its E-campus project at the Microsoft Campus Connections. The project generated intense interest of foreign universities and reps of IT companies.

Active development of IT and e-learning technologies enabled development of open education. KazNU’s work on its own e-learning course allowed it to create the National Platform of Open Education (moocs.kz) together with the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The platform has already garnered support of members of the University Alliance of the Silk Road. Currently, the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University is an intellectual corporation with second to none scientific and innovative infrastructure in Kazakhstan. Within the framework of its Al-Farabi University — Smart City project, it trains specialists for new Kazakhstan’s digital economy.

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