First Indian Student Supercomputing Challenge Coming this June

By Tiffany Trader

December 7, 2015

During June 1-4, 2016, the first ever Indian Student Supercomputing Challenge (ISSC) will take place in Mumbai, India, in tandem with the inaugural distributed & embedded-High Performance Computing (de-HPC) symposium. ISSC is being organized by the academic partners Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and industry partners Syncthreads Computing with the official support of the HPC Advisory Council (HPCAC). The event follows in the footsteps of the Student Cluster Competitions held annually at SC in the US, ISC in Germany, and the Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge in China.

The purpose of ISSC, according to its organizers, is to introduce the next generation of students to the HPC community and its technology. The event will welcome 8-10 student teams – four to six from India and four from the international community – each team comprised of six undergraduates and a mentor. Over a three-day period on the de-HPC exhibition floor, these teams will build a small cluster computer of their own design and will run a series of HPC benchmarks and applications, as agreed upon by HPCAC worldwide and the technical committee. In line with the other student cluster contests, there will be three known applications, one surprise application plus the LINPACK benchmark run. The teams will also be required to present their findings to a panel of judges to show how fundamentally they understand the applications and results.

There will be one selection round, the criteria for which will follow a mix of SC, ISC and ASC rules. The winning teams will collaborate with vendor sponsors to get all the necessary hardware to prepare for the competition event. The challenge will follow a standard track where there is no strict limit on hardware, but teams will have to stay within the power limit of 3kW (or approximately ~13A) while running the benchmarks and applications specified.

Umesh Gupta 2015
Umesh Gupta, member of research staff, Syncthreads Computing

At SC15, HPCwire spoke with one of the main visionaries behind this event, Umesh Gupta, who was a research fellow with CUDA Center of Excellence at IIT Bombay before joining of the research staff at Syncthreads Computing. Gupta recalled his first ISC event in 2014, where he encountered the student teams and advisors who had come from around the world to take part in the Student Cluster Competition. Gupta was impressed at their enthusiasm, dedication and commitment and was motivated to work with his team at Syncthreads to start a similar program in India. Syncthreads saw the student engagement activity as fitting within India’s National Supercomputing Mission (NSM), the government initiative to address HPC challenges like training and education in India to generate niche engineers.

Eager to kick-start this event, Syncthreads formed a strategic alliance with one of the premier institutes of India, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, who agreed to be academic partners for the event. This was followed up with a formal proposal to have IIT Bombay host the event and it was enthusiastically accepted through the Center for Studies in Resources Engineering (CSRE). The HPC Advisory Council (HPCAC), which sponsors the HPCAC-ISC Student Cluster Competition, added its support, and the event was formally announced at HiPC in Goa, India, in December 2014.

“The student cluster competition to me is a perfect way to introduce, develop and enhance the HPC technologies in the community,” commented Gupta. “Although the phrase ‘student competition’ is prominent, the event involves participation on every level, senior mentors, faculty advisors on up to top management. Being a student researcher myself, I believe ISSC opens up an interesting and innovative platform for HPC student fraternity in India to experience computer science and computational science,” Gupta added.

Synchtreads team has been prominent in organizing this event, but they are not doing it alone. The HPC community has stepped up in a big way to support this effort. Professors Surya Durbha and B.K Mohan from CSRE IIT Bombay are heading up the organizing committee. Professor Rajat Moona, director general of C-DAC, assured strong support for the event and reached out to HPCAC and other industry partners at ISC 2015 in Germany. The ISSC Technical Committee includes Stephen Harrell of Purdue University, Kurt Keville of MIT, and Doug Smith, assistant dean for Programs and Engagement at University of Colorado, among others.

Deputy chair of the SCC at SC15 and SC16 SCC chair, Harrell acknowledged the way that Gupta has brought in resources from the other student competitions. “I think he’s doing it right and we want to help,” Harrell said. “It’s so important to get students using high-performance computing at the undergraduate level. It’s not common and it needs to be.”

Of the ten teams that Purdue has sent to student cluster challenges, Harrell has been the advisor for seven of them. He’s taken four to SC, two to ISC and one to the Asian Supercomputing Challenge, so he has a broad perspective to share with the ISSC committee. He thinks we need to have more of these competitions. His big projects are getting HPC into the undergraduate curriculum at Purdue, both in the domain sciences and in the extra-curriculum.

“It’s a tool,” Harrell said of HPC, “you wouldn’t give someone a degree in chemistry if they can’t use tools. I see it as a lab component in domain science. There are not many fields that don’t have at least some HPC requirements.”

“HPC pushes science forward and if there’s something that’s going to help the world it’s more knowledge,” Harrell shared, “and I believe science is our best tool for getting that knowledge. To me supporting HPC, getting students inspired by HPC changes the world.”

ISSC will be co-located with the distributed & embedded-High Performance Computing (de-HPC) symposium. This will be a full-fledged conference spotlighting HPC-based research in various domains along with an opportunity for HPC vendors across the world to introduce their latest products to distinguished dignitaries and students representing both academics and government institutions in India.

Along with keynotes and thematic sessions by distinguished national and international delegates, programming workshops for students, tutorials, BoFs and poster sessions, there will be special emphasis on research in HPC for energy-efficiency and low-power supercomputing.

Dr. Rhushabh Goradia, director of Syncthreads Computing, comments, “The idea of the de-HPC initiative is to bring the entire HPC community of the country, be it academics, government organizations and vendors with top HPC products, under one roof and give them a platform to collaborate and work towards solving bigger inter-disciplinary challenges. Our work goal is to evangelize HPC movement in India, and de-HPC is our first step.”

He further adds, “The agenda of de-HPC is very different from a standard conference track. For example, here we would also be focusing on expert panel discussions, thematic sessions, real-time HPC quizzes for practical problems, and also hands-on expert tutorials being conducted for students to instill the confidence in them that ‘Yes! I can utilize the benefits of HPC as a part of my research and be a part of the worldwide HPC community!’”

The call for participation and call for sponsorships are starting now and interested parties can go to de-hpc.org or email at [email protected] for more information.

“We have been approached by many HPC industry stakeholders during the conferences and competitions in China, Germany and the United, States. There is strong interest because everyone is looking forward to being part of an Indian event,” said Gupta.

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