The Colorado team is no stranger to these competitions. They’ve been here before – four times before. While they’ve seen some success, winning the LINPACK crown (no actual crown), they’ve never won the big trophy (there isn’t any trophy of any size).
However, this might change in 2010. Their experience, along with some hot hardware, might make the difference between competing and winning. Aided by their sponsors, the Buffaloes have put together a Dell AMD Magny Cours-based cluster that relies on Infiniband from Mellanox and PCIe SSD storage from Fusion-io.
The folks I talked to were divided on whether SSD storage makes much difference. Some say that the benchmarks aren’t storage intensive to the point where ultra-speedy SSDs would pay dividends. Others (mainly the teams utilizing SSDs) believe that using them as scratch disks speeds their processing and increases overall throughput.
One thing they can all agree on is that solid state disks use less power and generate less heat – definitely a positive given the 26 amp limitation on configurations.
We’ll also see how AMD’s premier chip stacks up against Intel’s best. Do the extra 6 cores from Magny Cours deliver the goods? Colorado had a chance to evaluate both and gave AMD the nod – was this the right call? We’ll know more at the end of the day tomorrow when teams turn in their LINPACK results. Stay tuned…
Another first-time competitor is the team from Louisiana State University (LSU). They’re not located right in New Orleans, but at only 80 miles or so away, they have a definite home-team feel.
They’re close enough that it didn’t make a lot of sense to use a shipping company to move the hardware to the show. So the team advisor put the cluster into the back of his pickup truck (in a covered camper shell), placed the blades in the back seat, and drove the whole configuration to the event.
There’s a rumor that he may have arranged the gear in such a way as to seal his luggage into the camper for the first night – but that hasn’t been corroborated by a second source, so I won’t say anything about it here.
The LSU team is quite personable; they’re very good representatives of the local area.
Sunday at the Student Cluster Competition (SCC) at SC10 in New Orleans… we stop in at the Stony Brook booth to meet the team and see what they’ve brought with them. They introduced us to their cluster, dubbed the “Bear-O-Dactyl.” It’s a combination bear and pterodactyl – but I’ll let them explain the reasoning behind the nickname.
Stony Brook has to be considered a powerful competitor. They won all the marbles last year (there aren’t any actual marbles), and several members of their team have been to the big show before, so they have experience on their side.
They also have supercomputer legend Cray in their corner, along with NVIDIA GPUs. In fact, they are one of two (maybe three) teams deploying GPUs in the competition, making their box GPU-riffic (I’m still trying to coin that term).
Will all of this be enough to make Stony Brook the first repeat champion in SCC history? Could be. I think they’re an early favorite, but it’s still anyone’s game at this point. We’ll know more tomorrow when they run the HPCC benchmark.
Eight university teams – six from the US, one from Russia, and one from Taiwan – descend on the SC10 supercomputing show in New Orleans next week to take part in the Student Cluster Competition (SCC). Each team arrives with its own unique set of skills and challenges; read a profile of each team here.
The students bring their self-designed, self-built clusters to the show where they re-assemble them and race to complete a set of benchmarks and workloads in the quickest time.
The competition tests their system design skills, their aptitude for learning new programs and new methods, and their ability to optimize code to produce more (and better) output than their rivals.
GCG is covering the competition from the show floor for The Register… Pick a team to cheer on, and check back to see how they’re faring…
Results from the Student Cluster Competition at SC09 in Portland, OR:
We “discovered” the student cluster phenomenon at SC10 in New Orleans… but it existed even before we took laptop, camcorder, and pompoms in hand to document the excitement. Here’s what we know about SC09:
LINPACK Award: University of Colorado at Boulder, USA – 692 GFlop/s
- Arizona State University
- University of Colorado
- Purdue University
- Stony Brook University
(Click photo to enlarge.) All the details on the gear at the November 2008 SC Student Cluster Competition in Austin, Texas.
Results from the Student Cluster Competition at SC08 in Austin, TX:
We “discovered” the student cluster phenomenon at SC10 in New Orleans… but it existed even before we took laptop, camcorder, and pompoms in hand to document the excitement. Here’s what we know about SC08:
Overall Award: “The ClusterMeisters” (Combined team from Indiana University, USA and Technische Universitat Dresden, Germany)
LINPACK Award: National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan – 703 GFlop/s
(Click photo to enlarge.) What happens in Reno doesn’t stay in Reno: all the details on the gear at the November 2007 SC Student Cluster Competition.
Results from the Student Cluster Competition at SC07 in Reno, NV:
We “discovered” the student cluster phenomenon at SC10 in New Orleans… but it existed even before we took laptop, camcorder, and pompoms in hand to document the excitement. Here’s what we know about SC07:
LINPACK Award: National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan – 420 GFlop/s
And our own Honorable Mention: Purdue University for the creation of their Supercomputing Challenges 2007 comic book
So what’s it like to compete in the SC10 Student Cluster Competition (SCC)? We find out in this latest webcast on The Register.
You’re a college student, one of six on a team representing your university. Your team is charged with designing, building, and benchmarking a cluster that outperforms those built by seven rival teams in the competition. A few rules constrain your design, the hardware has to be readily available, you can only use 26 amps, and your cluster has to fit into a single rack.
You have a faculty advisor to help you along, and vendor sponsors who provide the gear. But when the competition starts, you are completely dependent upon your teammates and the knowledge you’ve picked up along the way.
In our last webcast, we talked to Hai An Nam, the SC10 SCC committee co-chair, who delivered an overview of the competition. In this new webcast we get the inside view from Dustin Leverman, who captained the University of Colorado (Boulder) team at the first SCC in 2007. Dustin tells us the story of his team and their highs and lows, and also talks about what it takes to successfully compete in the SCC.
In Dustin’s case at least, it’s not an overstatement to say that it changed his life. He received an internship offer at SC07 that changed his career trajectory.
Dustin is now an HPC Systems Administrator for the National Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Nice.