Intel has announced it will hold its second Intel Parallel Universe Computing Challenge at SC14, November 17-20, 2014 in New Orleans. The Intel Parallel Universe Computing Challenge is an educational and entertaining game show-style event where teams compete to win a grand prize of a $26,000 donation to a charitable organization. During the challenge, eight teams participate in a single elimination tournament designed to raise awareness of the importance of parallelization for improving the performance of technical computing applications. The event includes a live rapid-fire trivia competition and parallel code optimization where participants modify software.
HPCwire spoke with Mike Bernhardt, Intel’s Community Evangelist, Technical Computing Group. Mike and James Reinders, a Software Evangelist at Intel, came up with the idea of the Challenge, helps to produce the event, and acts as its emcee.
Here’s what he had to say about last year’s event and what we can look forward to.
HPCwire: Mike, what’s your take on last year’s Challenge at SC13 in Denver?
Bernhardt: There is no question that last year’s competition was an overwhelming success. I can remember standing on the stage for each of the matches and looking out over this sea of faces – people standing in the aisles as far as I could see, all trying to squeeze in and be part of this exciting event. We had eight teams competing in an eight round single elimination tournament, with each round becoming more difficult.
The first round in each match was a trivia round, very fast paced. Trivia is a sweet spot for many of the folks in HPC; they really enjoy it and pride themselves on knowing a wealth of interesting facts and tidbits. We offered a trivia round based on the HPC community history, the history of the SC conference series, and general technical questions about parallel programming and code modernization.
The teams racked up their points and moved into the second round – the code challenge. This was really interesting – we took code snippets that we knew had achieved a particular performance by going through some code parallelization techniques. We deconstructed those code segments down to their raw form.
This is what the teams were dealing with, live and on stage, under pressure, with a lot of people watching their performance. They had only 10 minutes to identify areas where they might be able to extract some parallelism, do the compile, and run the code to try and improve performance. The teams had to not only look the code snippet over and agree on what their strategy should be, they were also facing the pressure of a clock counting down while hundreds of their peers watched. The audience could see what they were doing with the code on overhead screens, and could cheer them on.
HPCwire: And the German team was victorious.
Berhnardt: That’s right. When the dust settled, two teams remained – the Gaussian Elimination Squad from Germany and Coding Illini, made up of contenders from the University of Illinois and NCSA. As we all know, in that final round the Gaussian Elimination Squad came out on top. As the winners of the 2013 Challenge, they designated the Philippine Red Cross for their typhoon disaster relief efforts to receive the $25,000 prize money.
This year in New Orleans, we’re using the same format, but we’ve added many new trivia questions and all new code examples. We have also made changes to the set itself to make it more exciting, and we have plans to get the audience even more involved.
The Gaussian Elimination Squad will be back to defend their title and Coding Illini, the other finalists in 2013, will be competing again this year. So, last year’s two best performing teams are back again. We’ll be announcing other teams soon.
HPCwire: What message do you think the Challenge brings to the HPC community?
I think the competition underscores the fact that an increasing number of young people are showing interest in HPC and evidencing amazing talent.
It also helps to focus on something that is on the minds of everyone in HPC today – the driving need for code modernization. As we move into multicore and manycore architectures, we’re hitting an inflection point – a point where organizations really need to begin digging into their legacy code and starting to parallelize it, modernize it, in order to increase performance. That’s the underlying message of the Parallel Universe Computing Challenge. Parallel optimization, or code modernization, is key to achieving maximum performance in the many-core era.