ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

By Oliver Peckham

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and racing to complete a series of tasks and workloads across a variety of applications. ISC 2020 was a little bit different, of course, in that there was no exhibit floor on which to build clusters — in fact, there was no physical conference at all. With ISC 2020 fully virtual, the teams instead competed to run workloads on the same cluster — a system supplied by the National Supercomputing Center (NSCC) in Singapore — over the course of June 1st to 24th. Now, after more than three weeks of heated (and social-distanced) competition, the winners of the ISC 2020 Student Cluster Competition have been announced.

The 14 teams hailed from Nanyang Technological University, ETH Zurich, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Warsaw, the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, National Cheng Kung University, the University of Heidelberg, Tsinghua University, South Africa’s Centre for High Performance Computing, the University of Science and Technology of China, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Vilnius University, the University of Hamburg and Telkom University. You can read a full breakdown of the teams here, but going in, the favorites were likely the Centre for High Performance Computing team (which had earned four gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal across their last seven appearances) and the Tsinghua team (which had racked up 19 appearances including ten gold medals, four silver medals and two bronze medals).

ISC 2020 Student Cluster Champions: USTC- Team Swangeese

The teams competed on the NSCC’s cluster, which sported one Xeon-based node and one Nvidia DGX-1 node with eight V100 GPUs. The competition eschewed the usual benchmarks, of course, since the teams were all using the same system. Instead, they competed to run a series of applications, including several applications that are being used by researchers in their hunt for a cure for COVID-19.

This morning, the winners were announced:

First Place: University of Science and Technology, China

Second Place: Centre for High Performance Computing, South Africa

Third Place: Tsinghua University, China

Fan Favorite: Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain

The University of Science and Technology team’s win came as a solid surprise, as it comes on the heels of a multi-year break for the team. The team had previously competed in seven major cluster competitions, earning a gold medal at an SC cluster competition, two silver medals, two bronze medals and a Linpack award. In his coverage of the ISC20 Student Cluster Competitions a few days ago, our own Dan Olds urged readers not to sleep on the University of Science and Technology team. “This team,” he wrote, “is a player.”

Both the Centre for High Performance Computing and Tsinghua University reinforced their reputations for winning streaks. The former now holds four gold medals, three silver medals and a bronze medal; the latter, ten gold medals, four silver medals and three bronze medals. But now that it’s back from hiatus, the University of Science and Technology looks to be hot on their heels.

More in-depth coverage from HPCwire Student Cluster Editor Dan Olds will be forthcoming.

Watch the ISC 2020 Student Cluster Competition Awards presentation below:

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