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SCC after dark: Clustering all night long

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SC10 Last week the fourth annual Student Cluster Competition was held at SC10 in New Orleans. Teams from eight universities brought their own self-designed and built clusters to the show, re-assembled them, and raced to complete a set of benchmarks and workloads in the quickest time. The Register's resident HPC analyst Dan Olds was our reporter at the scene.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Student Cluster Competition is the way it stresses the humans even more than the hardware. The students have 46 hours to run as many of the benchmarks as possible, so they man their equipment around the clock to maximize throughput.

My videos to accompany this article were taken early Wednesday morning, about 15 hours before their final results were due. This was the second and last night of the competition. Team moods were mostly quiet and subdued. The fatigue was showing on everyone, including me, as I asked the same questions over and over again. Despite my barely coherent interview technique, we learn more about the teams, their strategies, and the nature of the challenge.

In this first SCC video, I talk to hometown favorite LSU about how it feels to be one of three teams to break through the teraflop barrier - a first in SCC history.

We next visit the NNSU team from Russia - almost catching them on film watching a movie. They converted their booth into a mini Cineplex, complete with popcorn and semi-surround sound.

And why not? The systems were running smoothly, and the 42" LCD was just sitting there. The next team, Colorado, was all business, working away on the benchmarks. Same thing at Purdue; their quiet demeanor was even quieter than usual, at least on camera. Of course, this could have been because of the late hour.

The other teams, seen here in my second SCC video, were more expansive. Texas talked about joining the newly-established SCC Teraflop Club with their 1.07 LINPACK result and also discussed their strategy in approaching the task of cracking 4,000,000 passwords.

With FAMU, we talked with a very tired team member about their roller coaster journey at the show: how their hardware didn't show up as planned, and how they managed to finish the competition on borrowed equipment. With Stony Brook, we touched on light bedtime reading and the pros and cons of using DoD Military Grade caffeine during the competition.

Rounding out the night was a visit to the NTHU team, where I marveled at the durability of the school seal tattoo they had put on my hand a few days earlier. ®

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