Virtual SC20 Cluster Competition Kick-Off

By Dan Olds

November 9, 2020

It’s time to meet the competitors at the SC20 Virtual Student Cluster Competition (VSCC). We’re going to introduce the teams, look at their records, and break down their games. We also have connected with our cluster competition bookie, Johnny Aces (pictured right) to see what he thinks of this year’s crop of competitors and get his predictions on the winners.

But first, a little bit about this year’s competition.

Like the preceding ISC20 competition, the SC20 event is completely virtual. This is, of course, due to the issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus. Where the ISC20 competition had students using the same cluster, the SC20 tourney is using Microsoft Azure as a hardware host for the student teams. Each team gets credits they can use on Azure to run their workloads on their selected configuration.

Teams will be measured by how much performance they can wring out of their Azure budget dollars as opposed to the power consumption metric used in years past.

As always, student teams will be competing to run a variety of HPC benchmarks and real-world applications to see which team can run the codes the fastest while making best use of their hardware resources.

The Teams

Team Clemson, U.S., aka “Team Dabo’s Tech Support”
Clemson is a first time cluster competition entrant. The team is named after the coach of their championship caliber football team (Go Tigers!), Dabo Swinney. They team has submitted applications to two previous SC competitions, but didn’t get over the hump until their third attempt this year. It’s difficult to evaluate a team when you haven’t seen them in a competition environment, but judging by the resumes of the team members, they look to be a strong newbie team on paper. The majority of them have held systems and HPC related internships and even full-time jobs. Odds to win: 10-1

Friedrich Alexander Universität, Germany, aka “Team default”
This is the thirteenth major cluster competition appearance for team FAU. They’ve made a name for themselves as HPL masters, having won the Highest LINPACK award at two previous events. Their highest overall finish was bronze, achieved recently at ISC20. They know their way around GPUs and optimizing code, but still haven’t put together the perfect game they need to take home a gold medal. But they’re a team on an upward trajectory, so this could be their year. Odds to win: 5-1

Tsinghua University, China, aka “Team Diablo”
This is the most experienced and most highly decorated team in student cluster competition history. Check out these stats: 20 competitions over the last eight years. ten gold medals, four silver medals, two bronze medals. Their teams are very stable over the years, meaning that each student has probably competed in several previous events. Team Tsinghua is definitely the team to beat in any competition. But with the Azure cloud-based competition, this is a new format for them, and they’ll need to adapt to it quickly. Odds to win: 3-1

ShanghaiTech University, China, aka “Team GeekPie_HPC”
This is the fourth competition for the team from Shanghai. They emerged in 2018 at the ASC event and surprisingly took home the silver medal. In their subsequent appearance at ISC18, they nailed HPCG and nabbed the Fan Favorite award. It will be interesting to see how the team performs this year. They have enough experience to know how the competition works and have tasted some success. Is this the year they drive into the top echelon? Odds to win: 5-1

Wake Forest University, U.S., aka “Team Daemon Deacons”
Third time competitor Wake Forest saw some success last year when they won the Reproducibility Challenge, which should give them some momentum going into the SC20 event. The team is returning two veterans, which should definitely help them in this year’s competition. They draw inspiration from their team anthem, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” proving that the 80s are alive and well in this generation and that some songs just won’t die! Odds to win: 10-1

University of Texas, Austin, U.S., aka “Team Longhorn”
This is the eighth SC competition for Team Longhorn. Over the years, they’re built up one of the best records in all of student clusterdom with three consecutive gold medals (2012-2014) and a Highest LINPACK award. They were also the first team to drive a mineral oil immersed cluster at SC11 in Seattle, which required an entire case of paper towels to maintain and manage. They haven’t competed in recent years, so this team is chock full of rookies. Can UT return to glory? Odds to win: 7-1

ETH Zurich, Switzerland, aka “Team RACKlette”

This team came out of nowhere at the ISC19 competition and nabbed the LINPACK Award and a bronze medal, instantly putting themselves on the radar of every cluster competition fan. They also appeared at SC19 and then again at ISC20. This team is sponsored by the Swiss National Supercomputing Center and coached by HPC luminary Torsten Hoefler. This is a smart, tough team that has been well trained. They’re great with their own hardware, but it’s an open question on how well they’ll adapt to the MS Azure cloud challenge. Johnny Aces, our in-house bookie, believes this team has a better than average chance of taking home the gold medal. Odds to win: 5-1

Texas A&M (plus San Antonio), U.S., aka “Team Aggie”
This is the third major international cluster competition for Team Aggie. They participated at SC18 in the US and also at ASC18 in China. This year, they’re reinforced by a group of students from the Texas A&M campus in San Antonio, Texas. It’s an entirely new team (including the coaches, I believe), so they’ll be learning about the competition as they go. It’s good to see the Aggies back in the competition, they have a special spirit. Odds to win: 10-1

University of California, San Diego, U.S., aka “Team Pink Flamingo”
This is another newbie team for SC20. UC San Diego, with assistance from the San Diego Supercomputing Center, is entering the competition with a student team that has a wide variety of experience with parallel systems, software development, and cloud computing. One interesting note is that UCSD does not currently offer an undergraduate HPC-centric computer science major. Maybe a big win at SC20 will change that, right? Odds to win: 9-1

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S., aka “Team UIUC”
This team is veteran heavy with three returning students from previous competitions, returning coaches, and new coaches who were past cluster competition team members. This will be their fifth major competition and the team has been steadily improving over the years. Their biggest sign of success was a bronze medal at the SC18 competition, but the team is hungry for more. Odds to win: 8-1

MIT, Boston University, U.S., aka “Team BUHPC”
This is the latest amalgamation team from Boston area universities, supported by the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. The Boston/MGHPC connection has run through thirteen previous teams, mostly powered by team coach Kurt Keville. They’ve competed at multiple events from China to Germany to SC events in the US. The team is known for their innovative hardware approaches in previous competitions – using Jetson GPUs, four-way nodes, and other interesting configurations. We’re looking forward to seeing what this latest team can do on MS Azure. Odds to win: 10-1

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, aka “Team Supernova”
Nanyang has competed in twelve previous major competitions, having made appearances in all of the international tourneys. They’re not a team to be taken lightly, particularly when it comes to HPL as they’ve won three Highest LINPACK awards. Team Nanyang also took home the gold medal at the SC16 competition. They typically rely on low node count, high GPU clusters, so it will be interesting to see how they configure their Azure nodes. Odds to win: 4-1

Georgia Institute of Technology, U.S., “Team Phoenix”
We last saw Georgia Tech at the SC17 cluster competition, so it’s unlikely that many of the team members are vets of that team. Back then, they were a low node team, but also low GPU, which didn’t help their chances. I also think they had some problems with their hardware during the event, which also didn’t help much. However, they won’t have this problem at SC20, so it will give them a chance to strut their optimizing skills. Odds to win: 10-1

Northeastern University, U.S., aka “Team Husky”
The second entrant from the Boston area, Team Husky has competed at five previous competitions – all in the US. While previous teams have finished in the middle of the pack (so to speak…heh, heh, good one), they field solid teams as is befitting for a major research university. I could write another five or six dog-related puns here, but I’m not going to stoop to that level. Great to have you back, NEU, good luck this year. Odds to win: 10-1

North Carolina State University, U.S., “Team Wolf Pack”
This is the second consecutive SC competition for Team Wolf Pack. I thought the team was a bit handicapped by their two node, eight V100 cluster, and that they could have done a bit more with either more nodes or more GPUs. But the first year is typically the learning year for student cluster competition teams. It’s very rare to see first year teams rise above the middle of the pack (yeah, used the same pun again, ouch!). Time will tell if the experience they gained from SC19 will help the team improve their performance at SC20. However, the massively changed virtual competition this year will prove challenging to all returning teams. Odds to win: 10-1

Peking University, China, aka “Team Peking”
Team Peking has participated in four previous events, including SC17 and SC19. This school is a high-powered research institution, think “Harvard of China” caliber school. They would love to top their cross-town Beijing rivals, Tsinghua University, in this competition. In order to fuel this burgeoning rivalry, Peking will have to up their game. From meeting and talking to this team in past competitions, I’m fully convinced that they can and will do this. This may or may not be their year, but they can’t be overlooked. Odds to win: 9-1

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, aka “Team Shanghai”
This will be the tenth major competition for Team Shanghai. The school has bagged a gold medal at ASC14, two silvers, and a bronze, so they definitely have the skills to be a top echelon team. Moreover, their coach is a four-year cluster competition team captain, which gives the team a lot of experience from which to draw upon. They’ve been one of the most enjoyable teams for me to cover as well. I think this is a team that’s due to break out of the pack. Odds to win: 8-1

Southern University of Science & Technology, China, aka “Team SUST”
Team SUST is competing in their second cluster competition, coming off a successful rookie outing at ASC19. While the team didn’t win any major awards, they scored well on the applications, well enough to win an application optimization at the competition. We don’t know much about the SUST team coming into SC20 but based on our prior experience with them at ASC19, we can expect a solid team and a great effort from them. Odds to win: 10-1

University of Warsaw, Poland, aka “Team Warsaw”
Team Warsaw has quietly turned into a perennial competitor at major international cluster events. With eight competitions (this will be their nineth) in four years, they are rapidly building up the institutional knowledge and skills necessary to transform their team into a powerhouse. They’ve had some bumps along the way, mostly hardware related. What I like about this team is that they always bounce back no matter what happens, and that’s exactly what is needed in IT these days. Odds to win: 10-1

So there are your SC20 cluster competition teams. It’s an interesting mix of long-time competitors and complete newbies. Covering a virtual competition is difficult because we can’t just walk up to a team and ask them how it’s going, but we’ll do our best to get access to the teams and get as much news to you as possible. In the meantime, check out the dashboard, and watch the kick-off video, with comments from Student Cluster Competition Co-Chair Scott Michael and SC20 General Chair Christine E. Cuicchi.

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!

Faster Optical Switch that Operates at ‘Room Temp’ Developed by IBM, Skolkovo Researchers

October 19, 2021

Optical switching technology holds great promise for many applications but hot operating temperatures have been a key obstacle slowing progress. Now, a new optical switching device that can operate at room temperatures a Read more…

Energy Exascale Earth System Model Version 2 Promises Twice the Speed

October 18, 2021

The Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) is an ongoing Department of Energy (DOE) earth system modeling, simulation and prediction project aiming to “assert and maintain an international scientific leadership posi Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 1938746143

MosaicML, Led by Naveen Rao, Comes Out of Stealth Aiming to Ease Model Training

October 15, 2021

With more and more enterprises turning to AI for a myriad of tasks, companies quickly find out that training AI models is expensive, difficult and time-consuming. Finding a new approach to deal with those cascading challenges is the aim of a new startup, MosaicML, that just came out of stealth... Read more…

NSF Awards $11M to SDSC, MIT and Univ. of Oregon to Secure the Internet

October 14, 2021

From a security standpoint, the internet is a problem. The infrastructure developed decades ago has cracked, leaked and been patched up innumerable times, leaving vulnerabilities that are difficult to address due to cost Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Cost optimizing Ansys LS-Dyna on AWS

Organizations migrate their high performance computing (HPC) workloads from on-premises infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for advantages such as high availability, elastic capacity, latest processors, storage, and networking technologies; Read more…

SC21 Announces Science and Beyond Plenary: the Intersection of Ethics and HPC

October 13, 2021

The Intersection of Ethics and HPC will be the guiding topic of SC21's Science & Beyond plenary, inspired by the event tagline of the same name. The evening event will be moderated by Daniel Reed with panelists Crist Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 1938746143

MosaicML, Led by Naveen Rao, Comes Out of Stealth Aiming to Ease Model Training

October 15, 2021

With more and more enterprises turning to AI for a myriad of tasks, companies quickly find out that training AI models is expensive, difficult and time-consuming. Finding a new approach to deal with those cascading challenges is the aim of a new startup, MosaicML, that just came out of stealth... Read more…

Quantum Workforce – NSTC Report Highlights Need for International Talent

October 13, 2021

Attracting and training the needed quantum workforce to fuel the ongoing quantum information sciences (QIS) revolution is a hot topic these days. Last week, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council issued a report – The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science... Read more…

Eni Returns to HPE for ‘HPC4’ Refresh via GreenLake

October 13, 2021

Italian energy company Eni is upgrading its HPC4 system with new gear from HPE that will be installed in Eni’s Green Data Center in Ferrera Erbognone (a provi Read more…

The Blueprint for the National Strategic Computing Reserve

October 12, 2021

Over the last year, the HPC community has been buzzing with the possibility of a National Strategic Computing Reserve (NSCR). An in-utero brainchild of the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium, an NSCR would serve as a Merchant Marine for urgent computing... Read more…

UCLA Researchers Report Largest Chiplet Design and Early Prototyping

October 12, 2021

What’s the best path forward for large-scale chip/system integration? Good question. Cerebras has set a high bar with its wafer scale engine 2 (WSE-2); it has 2.6 trillion transistors, including 850,000 cores, and was fabricated using TSMC’s 7nm process on a roughly 8” x 8” silicon footprint. Read more…

What’s Next for EuroHPC: an Interview with EuroHPC Exec. Dir. Anders Dam Jensen

October 7, 2021

One year after taking the post as executive director of the EuroHPC JU, Anders Dam Jensen reviews the project's accomplishments and details what's ahead as EuroHPC's operating period has now been extended out to the year 2027. Read more…

University of Bath Unveils Janus, an Azure-Based Cloud HPC Environment

October 6, 2021

The University of Bath is upgrading its HPC infrastructure, which it says “supports a growing and wide range of research activities across the University.” Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer... Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

US Closes in on Exascale: Frontier Installation Is Underway

September 29, 2021

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, held by Zoom this week (Sept. 29-30), it was revealed that the Frontier supercomputer is currently being installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The staff at the Oak Ridge Leadership... Read more…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

CentOS Replacement Rocky Linux Is Now in GA and Under Independent Control

June 21, 2021

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is announcing the general availability of Rocky Linux, release 8.4, designed as a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued CentOS. The GA release is launching six-and-a-half months... Read more…

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

Leading Solution Providers


AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... Read more…

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…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from I Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-ap Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make i Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow