Tsinghua University Wins Gold at ISC Student Cluster Contest

By Tiffany Trader

July 16, 2015

At an awards ceremony held yesterday at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, Germany, a packed theater cheered on the winners of the fourth HPCAC-ISC Student Cluster Competition and celebrated the victory of China’s Tsinghua University team as the sleep-deprived students took to the stage to collect their fifth student challenge gold cup (and second ISC win).

team_tsinghua_ISC15

The popular student contest, which is jointly organized by the HPC Advisory Council (HPCAC) and ISC, brings together university teams from around the world to compete on site for a grueling three days, during which teams must each build a small cluster computer of their own design and run a series of HPC benchmarks and applications. Contest rules specify a strict 3,000W power limit for all equipment that is actively used to run the test codes.

In keeping with SCC guidelines, students were required to optimize four science applications, three of which are known ahead of time and the other introduced during the competition. The three known apps were LAMMPS, a classical molecular dynamics code; PyFR, a Python-based framework for solving advection-diffusion problems; and Octopus, used for ab initio virtual experimentation. PyFR also doubled as the mystery app, but with additional time constraints involved.

Teams are scored based on their performance on the HPCC benchmark run (10 percent), a suite of test applications (80 percent), as well as their ability to articulate their strategy and results in front of a panel of expert judges (10 percent). At the awards ceremony, the top achievers are presented with prizes in five categories: first, second and third place, highest LINPACK performance and fan favorite.

The declared champion, with the highest overall performance, is China’s Tsinghua University team, comprised of Fangrui Song, Yuxin Wu, Yang Zhang, Youwei Zhuo, Dun Liang, and Miao Wang. Sponsored by Chinese server maker Inspur, the students’ hardware platform consisted of an Inspur Yingxin NF5280M4 2U dual-channel rack server, equipped with Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 CPUs and a Tesla K80 GPU, connected with Mellanox EDR fabric. The win marks the fifth time that a team from Tsinghua University has taken home the overall championship at a student cluster event. Gold was also claimed at ASC12, ISC12, and ASC13 and ASC15.

ISC15 Student Cluster Competition Results

Grabbing second place was the team from Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), which came to Germany with a stellar record of having won the previous two competitions. Third place was taken by the team from China’s University of Science and Technology.

Highest LINPACK, with a record 10.78 teraflops, went to Jamia Millia Islamia University (New Delhi, India). Using Boston’s liquid cooled GPU cluster, the team bested the 10.18 teraflops mark previously set by the University of Edinburgh, Boston’s 2014 sponsorship team. Rounding out the crop of new awardees is the fan favorite: the Purdue University & Universidad EAFIT team.

Please join us in congratulating all the winners, including the other contest finalists:

  • TU Chemnitz
  • University of São Paulo
  • University of Hamburg
  • University of Tartu
  • Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC)
  • National University of Defense Technology (NUDT)

Currently, there are three major world-wide student cluster events — SC, ISC and ASC — and we have recently learned that India is gearing up to launch a fourth. The US-based Supercomputing Conference (SC) held the first Student Cluster Competition (SCC) in November 2007, and that event has been held annually ever since. The International Supercomputing Conference (ISC), via a partnership with the HPC Advisory Council, held its first SCC at the June 2012 event in Hamburg. And the newest iteration, the Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC), held its inaugural SCC in April 2012 in Beijing, China. While each site puts its own spin on the contest rules, the main template follows that set by the original SC competition.

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