April 21, 2014

Compete with Teams from Asia, Europe and America, Will Purdue University Crown the ASC14 Student Supercomputer Challenge?

ASC14 logo

Computer science major Matt Molo is considering a career in computer security, supercomputing or distributed computing over a large array of machines, or the giant data centers of companies like Amazon and Google function.

“I was really interested in learning about supercomputers and running programs across multiple computers,” says Molo, a freshman from Joilet, Ill.

He’s getting a hands-on opportunity to do that as a member of Purdue university team preparing for the world’s largest student supercomputer competition—ASC14 Student Supercomputer Challenge (hereinafter ASC14) starting Monday (April 21th). The Purdue team is one of 16 finalists in the ASC14. Purdue’s team is the only U.S. representative. The other teams are from China mainland, Brazil, Hungary, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, China Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The five-day competition takes place in Guangzhou, China’s third largest city and the home of the Chinese National Supercomputing Center (Guangzhou), the world’s fastest supercomputer Tianhe-2, and a university complex with more than 100,000 students. The competition is organized by the Asia Supercomputer Community, Sun Yat-sen University and Inspur Group, a multinational information technology company, which built Tianhe-2 with NUDT. HPC Advisory Council, ISC and China HSS Lab are associate organizers.

In the competition, the students, all of whom must be undergraduates, assemble their own mini supercomputer under the 3000w power budget and configure it to run a battery of software over four days. Besides high-performance computing benchmarking programs, the known applications include scientific software for tasks such as modeling nanoscale materials, fluid dynamics simulation, and aeronautical design. The competition also features a “secret” application the teams receive once in China.

The ASC14 differs in that all the teams will assemble their supercomputers from stock parts provided by the challenge organizer-Inspur. Because all the teams will be using basically the similar machine parts from Inspur, the ASC14 places greater emphasis on configuring and modifying software.

In China, besides their own supercomputer, they have to configure applications to scale up and run on the Chinese Tianhe-2 “Milky Way” supercomputer, which has more than 3.1 million processors and ranked as the world’s fastest known supercomputer.

Purdue teams have participated in U.S. and European versions of the student supercomputing challenge regularly, but this is the first time Purdue has a team in the Asian challenge. To even earn the trip to China, the Purdue students had to place highly in a field of 82 teams from five continents in the preliminary competition of the ASC14 earlier this year.

However, the Purdue team will face the teams from Tsinghua, NUDT, and Tsinghua(Taiwan) in the final. Those teams also have made many achievements in many international student supercomputing challenges. More important, some potential dark-horse teams, such as Singapore Nanyang Technological University and China Taiyuan University of Technology, exhibited rather good performance in the preliminary contest. Will Purdue University win? We need to wait and see.

As an organizer of ASC14, the GM of HPC in Inspur Group, Mr. Liu Jun revealed that the ASC14 final is full of suspense and worth of expectation. In addition to the contest, there are many things interesting, including how well will the students perform on Tianhe-2 in the real application scalability, and may they break the record of HPL. Let’s find out the results together.


Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue

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