When the University of Edinburgh decided to enter the grueling ISC’13 Student Cluster Challenge, they didn’t have to look far for vendor partners eager to support their quest. The team turned to UK-based tech suppliers Viglen and Boston Ltd. for the gear and smarts they’d need to compete in Leipzig.
According to the team, David Power of Boston Limited was particularly helpful. In the video, I caught up with David for a show floor discussion of what they did to support the team. The company not only helped the students puzzle through the various options (Xeon vs. ARM, Phi vs. Tesla, etc.) but also jointly hosted the entire team for a three-day training session in London.
Team Edinburgh ultimately used a Xeon-based system with NVIDIA K20 accelerators, driving it fast enough to land second place in the LINPACK competition with a score of 8.321 TFlop/s.
We might see a future Edinburgh team sporting ARM-based clusters. Boston is selling a super dense, low power, ARM server that utilizes chips from Calxeda. This would certainly be the most energy efficient option for student clusterers, assuming that they could graft on accelerators to get the computer power they’d need to be competitive.
Check out the video to hear us discuss HPC application availability for ARM CPUs. From what I’ve learned from David and others, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. There are a fair number of scientific apps that have already been ported over to ARM, and the porting process looks to be relatively simple.