SC19 Student Cluster Competition: Know Your Teams

By Dan Olds

November 19, 2019

I’m typing this live from Denver, the location of the 2019 Student Cluster Competition… and, oh yeah, the annual SC conference too. The attendance this year should be north of 13,000 people, with the majority attendees here to observe the cluster competition, wager on the results, and cheer their favorite team on to victory. And maybe take a look at the show floor too.

So, without further ado, here are the teams vying for cluster competition glory at SC19.

ETH Zurich:  This team came out of the mountains of Switzerland and laid the smack down at ISC19, taking home the Highest LINPACK award and finishing third overall. This is almost unheard of for a rookie team and it makes us wonder what they have in store for SC19. Their coach, Hussien Hadrake, is such a hard driving taskmaster that he would make a Marine Drill Instructor proud. Check out the movie Full Metal Jacket for comparison.

FAU:  This is a Germany team that has competed in a total of nine international competitions in China, Europe, and the US. FAU, which is short for Friedrich Alexander Universitat, is best known for their two LINPACK wins and a Bronze medal earned at ISC competitions. In recent years, they’ve finished just short of the upper echelon, but some cluster competition observers think that FAU is ready to make a move on the top players – and that it could be this year.

Nanyang Technological University:  I’ve dubbed Team Nanyang “The Pride of Singapore” for good reason. They’ve competed in a total of eleven major tournaments and have had their share of wins. When Nanyang wins, they win in bunches, taking home both the Gold Medal and LINPACK Award at  SC17 and Silver and LINPACK at SC18. Definitely a team to have on your short list if you’re wagering on the competition.

NTHU:  National Tsing Hua University is a perennial competitor, having participated in an amazing 17 international bouts – including the very first cluster competition held at SC07 in Reno (also known as the “Great Black Out”). Along the way, this team has earned three Gold Medals, a Silver, a Bronze, and an incredible four LINPACK Awards. That’s quite the record. Their most recent Gold win was at ASC19 in Dalian, China. A note for aficionados, NTHU was one of the first teams to utilize GPUs in their cluster at SC11 in Seattle and they rode them to victory and a Gold Medal.

North Carolina State University:  One of the first time competitors and, now that I think of it, the first entrant from the Research Triangle Park. We don’t know much about their cluster game, but we do know that there are more Ph.D’s in their neck of the woods than anywhere else in the US. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a Ph.D in fact, which makes it a pretty interesting place (but also unpleasant for both cats, and Ph.Ds). We’ll take a run with the wolf pack and get your more details soon.

Peking University:  This is one of the best universities in the world, ranked #41 worldwide by US News and World report and #1 in Asia. Along with all of their academic smarts, they’re also developing a cluster competition game. They’ve participated in four previous competitions, most recently in the big stadium at ASC19. While this team hasn’t scored any major awards yet, they definitely have the brain power and dedication to leave a mark on SC19.

Purdue University:  They’ve competed a grand total of 14 times, primarily at SC, but also in Europe at ISC and in China at ASC. Team Boilermaker hasn’t taken home any trophies as yet, but they’ve certainly had their times at bat. Maybe this is the year that the Boilermakers will rise up and grab some cluster competition glory. We’ll keep an eye on them.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University:  This is another one of the powerhouse Chinese teams and is getting closer and closer to their Gold Medal. They’ve competed at nine international competitions, taking home two Silver Medals and a Bronze. They seem to always be in the hunt for gold, but not quite making it over the hump. What’s interesting about this team is that their coach is a former four year competitor who intimately knows the ins and outs of the cluster game. The smart money is looking for Jiao Tong to make a move and snare a major award in the next few competitions.

ShanghaiTech University:  Up and coming team from China, this is their third competition since their debut at ASC18. They pulled off a surprising second place finish, earning them a place in the ISC18 competition in Frankfurt. This is definitely a skilled team and has the potential to shock the cluster world again at SC19.

Team Tennessee:  This team is a combination of students from three different universities: University of Tennessee, Pellissippi State Community and Maryville College. University of Tennessee is a return competitor while Pellissippi and Maryville are brand new. Highly renown Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a team sponsor and, assumedly, is playing a role in the coaching of these students. Having Oak Ridge in as your corner is certainly a plus and could be the crucial element that puts this team into the upper echelon.

Tsinghua University:  Tsinghua is the most heavily decorated team in clusterdom, hands down. They’ve competed in more events than anyone else (19) and taken home the most medals (eight Gold, three Silver and three Bronze). They are the only team to complete the Triple Crown of student cluster, winning all three major competitions in a single year – and they did it TWICE. These are truly steely eyed cluster warriors and the team to beat at any competition. However, they aren’t perfect. They finished second at both ASC19 and ISC19, which had some cluster competition observers wondering if their dominance has come to an end. But the smart money is on Tsinghua to be on the podium when the smoke clears.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign:  This is a team that’s ready to move to the top tier of cluster competitors. They’ve gained experience with their three previous appearances, they have the hardware, and they have the coaching and advisors to put together a winning effort at SC19. The team has had a taste of victory with their third place finish at SC17 and is hungry for more.

University of Tartu:  These Estonians have traveled far and wide to compete at cluster events. They’ve made the trip to China once and have competed at Germany’s ISC three times. They were the team involved in the infamous “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” incident at ISC15. In fact, the coach of the current Tartu team was a team member who cut his hand making cable adapters for their cluster. Even though he was bleeding profusely, he refused medical attention until he had finished the cables. This team has that kind of spirit in spades and although they haven’t won the big prizes (yet).

University of Warsaw:  The plucky Polish team has fast become a band of veterans with seven cluster competitions under their collective belts. They’ve traveled to Asia, competed in Europe and visited the SC competition three times. They’ve experimented with exotic interconnects and have fought back against hardware problems. But more importantly, the team has pushed hard to improve with every opportunity – and that’s the point of this stuff, right?

University of Washington:  This is the first cluster competition from the Pac-12 Huskies. Their football team is having a mediocre season, so the school’s reputation is riding on the performance of their Student Cluster Competition team in Denver – which is the most important collegiate sporting event in the world. We don’t know a lot about this team but considering they’re from the tech-heavy Seattle area, they’ve probably had some high-quality coaching. Maybe there’s some Amazon or Microsoft support in the background, who knows? I’ll do my best to find out.

Wake Forest University:  Second time up for the Deamon Deacon team from Wake Forest. They had some first-time jitters last year plus the hardware/software gremlins that are typical for a rookie team. But all of that is behind them and it’s time to begin anew. You can’t underestimate the value of experience in these competitions and now that the Deacons have a year under their belts, the team will see considerable improvement this year.

Now that we’ve covered the teams, next up we’ll take a look at the grueling applications and tasks they have before them…Stay tuned…..

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios Adds DoD Research & Engineering Title

July 13, 2020

Michael Kratsios, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, has been appointed acting Undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering. He replaces Mike Griffin, who along with his deputy Lis Porter, stepped down last wee Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer Research Reveals Star Cluster Born Outside Our Galaxy

July 11, 2020

The Milky Way is our galactic home, containing our solar system and continuing into a giant band of densely packed stars that stretches across clear night skies around the world – but, it turns out, not all of those st Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprised of Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia A100 GPUs, and featuri Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Xilinx Announces First Adaptive Computing Challenge

July 9, 2020

A new contest is challenging the computing world. Xilinx has announced the first Xilinx Adaptive Computing Challenge, a competition that will task developers and startups with finding creative workload acceleration solutions. Xilinx is running the Adaptive Computing Challenge in partnership with, a developing community... Read more…

By Staff report

Reviving Moore’s Law? LBNL Researchers See Promise in Heterostructure Oxides

July 9, 2020

The reality of Moore’s law’s decline is no longer doubted for good empirical reasons. That said, never say never. Recent work by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers suggests heterostructure oxides may b Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Best Practices for Running Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Workloads on AWS

The scalable nature and variable demand of CFD workloads makes them well-suited for a cloud computing environment. Many of the AWS instance types, such as the compute family instance types, are designed to include support for this type of workload.  Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: 1) Industries of the Future (IotF), chaired be Dario Gil (d Read more…

By John Russell

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprise Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

In this exclusive interview for HPCwire – sadly not face to face – Steve Conway, senior advisor for Hyperion Research, talks with Dr.-Ing Bastian Koller about the state of HPC and its collaboration with Industry in Europe. Koller is a familiar figure in HPC. He is the managing director at High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) and also serves... Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers


Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This