Do you want to secure a place in HPC history? One route would be to singlehandedly design and implement an exascale supercomputer, a task most would categorize as “hard.”
But an easier route is to participate in the various Student Cluster Competitions that take place around the world. At SCCs, undergraduate student teams build their own HPC clusters and compete live against other universities to see which cluster offers the best performance. Continue reading
Four teams from Asian universities entered the ISC’15 Student Cluster Competition arena in a bid to do glorious cluster combat and chisel their names into HPC history. Who are these brave students? Where do they come from? What do they want?
Team India: Liquid cooled screamer
The kids from Jamia Millia Islamia brought some real firepower to their first Student Cluster Competition. While most of the teams are driving 6-8 node hybrid systems, Team India is styling and profiling with a four-node, 8 K40 GPU cluster that, with the addition of liquid cooling, should be able to really scream on some of the applications.
That’s as long as the drivers of said screaming cluster know how to drive it efficiently.
Eight countries from five continents sent eleven university student teams to do battle at the recently concluded ISC’15 Student Cluster Competition. If you multiply 8 x 5 x 11, you get 440: a number that has no relevance to this article.
Europe was ably represented by four teams. Let’s have a video introduction to each of them:
Team Chemnitz – Germany: Coffee Table of Doom Rides Again, Intel Complier Bug in Frankfurt Messe?
This is the team that deploys the now trademarked “Coffee Table of Doom” series of systems, the first of which was so powerful (with 16 accelerators), that it could be barely powered on without setting off fire suppression devices in the convention hall.
This year’s crop of student clusterers brought perhaps the most diverse set of equipment ever to grace a cluster competition in the modern era. We have servers with high node counts, low node counts, some with only CPUs, some with more GPUs than CPUs, and even a cluster that uses ARM CPUs.
The chart supplies all the details, so analyze to your heart’s content. But here are some things that jump out at me. Continue reading
Purdue University has participated in more Student Cluster Competitions than any other institutions – nine of ‘em in less than 10 years. They must be getting something out of it, right?
To answer that question and many others we talked to Dr Gerry McCartney, who is the VP of IT at Purdue. He is also a professor of IT, along with being the assistant CIO at the university.
In the video, Dr. McCartney talks about how Purdue became involved with the cluster competition, how the competition is giving their students real world experience and skills, and how it’s shaping their HPC curriculum.
If you’re affiliated with a university and want to participate in, or start your own, cluster competition, you should watch this video. You should also watch it if you’re an IT vendor who wants to get involved.
Or if you’re interested in where the next generation of HPC talent is coming from and how they’re being trained, here are your answers.
I recently had a conversation with Pat McGinn, product manager at CoolIT Systems. Fortunately I recorded our chat, then matched it up with some slides to package it into a webcast.
In the video, Pat and I talk about the strengths and weaknesses of four types of liquid cooling. We also talk benefits, including cost savings, greater reliability, and, a personal favorite of mine, performance.
One of their most recent performance examples comes from the 2014 ISC Student Cluster Competition where the student team from Edinburgh set a LINPACK record (just over 10TF) that still stands today.
That system was provided by the Boston Group, with cooling provided by CoolIT.
I had one question that Pat couldn’t answer, though, and it was this: if you properly cool the hardware, keeping it well within design specs, would it suffer any ill effects (reliability, stability) from overclocking above manufacturer settings. I can’t recall seeing any solid research on this topic, so I figured I would ask.
It’s understandable that Pat couldn’t comment on this, as he’s not in a position to speak for Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, or anyone else who makes chippy things.
But I’m still curious, so does anyone out there have an answer to this question? Let me know if you have any thoughts on the topic.
The stage is set for an unprecedented architectural melee at the upcoming ISC 2015 Student Cluster Competition in Frankfurt. For the first time, a student team will be bringing an ARM-based cluster to what has previously been an all-x86 competition.
(For the rare individual who doesn’t know about student cluster competitions and why they’ve taken the computer world by storm, here’s some background info.)
We’re also going to see if the powerhouse South African CHPC team can complete the hat-trick and take home their third consecutive Overall Championship trophy. It’s a long shot to be sure, but not totally unprecedented.
I recorded a video with Brian Sparks looking at the upcoming competition and competitors. Brian is the HPC Advisory Council Events Director and one of the main movers and shakers behind the ISC competition.
The fourth annual ISC Cluster Competition will feature eleven teams of undergraduates, representing universities from around the world. Each team has had to secure sponsorships, design their cluster, learn how to tune it, and how to optimise their system for a variety of real-world HPC applications and benchmarks. The only constraint on their system is a constantly monitored 3,000 watt power cap. It’s quite a lot of work, and all of it in addition to their regular college activities (taking selfies, making up new slang, and being offended by things).
First look at the field
The field this year skews a bit towards the veteran side, with eight teams having varying levels of experience joined by three completely new teams. Let’s look at those teams in a bit more detail: Continue reading
As the kickoff for the ISC’15 student cluster-building competition approaches, it’s a good time to take a look at what the undergrads will actually be doing. But first, let’s talk a little bit about the format of this specific competition, in which students are challenged to build and benchmark HPC systems from scratch against the clock.
(For a more general primer on these competitions, click here.)
Competing in the ISC cluster competition is sort of like running through an obstacle course. After putting your cluster together over the weekend, student teams will face their first scored challenge on Monday afternoon.
As usual, the first day is devoted to benchmarks, with students running the HPCC benchmark suite plus a separate LINPACK run that will determine the Highest LINPACK award. Their HPCC results will count for 10 per cent of their overall score.
Students will run other applications during competition periods on Tuesday and Wednesday. The applications this year include: Continue reading
Team Quokka is a consortium of several universities in Australia. This is their second SC tourney, and they’ve brought a completely new team to the New Orleans battle.
First, I need to dispel a nasty rumor. The Aussie coach probably did not fire everyone on the 2014 team because they didn’t win the competition. She’s a much nicer person than that, according to, well, her. Continue reading
Back for their second appearance at an SC competition is the team from FAU in Germany. They’re just as engaging as ever, and are looking to make some waves at SC14.
They’re bringing the same personnel this year, along with the same cat pictures adorning their table, but have a new sponsor (NEC) and a renewed desire to win. In the video, we talk the differences between this year and last. (Example: “Last year, we didn’t know what we were doing. This year we do.”) Continue reading