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Will world universities step to cluster challenge?

Tautology or just plain taunting

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The April 15th team- application deadline for the SC11 Student Cluster Competition (SCC) is fast approaching. The SCC pits eight university teams from around the globe against one another in Seattle (site of Supercomputing 2011 - or SC11) to compete for clustering glory.

Sponsors supply the equipment and advice, but it’s the students who learn the systems and applications, devise competition strategies, and bring it all together in a quest to make their systems perform better than their competitors’ – and drink deeply from the chalice of victory. (There isn’t an actual SCC Chalice of Victory, but maybe I’ll see if I can pick one up. Send me a link if you see a good one online.)

We had a great SCC in New Orleans last year. The teams were highly motivated, and everyone who took the time to visit the competition area came away highly impressed with the students’ talent, their understanding of what they were doing, and their drive to succeed.

The competition paid solid dividends for the students, their schools, and the sponsors alike. Students were being courted by organizations anxious to offer full-time jobs or internships. The computer science programs at their universities gained mindshare from show attendees, bringing more attention to their programs and research. The vendors sponsoring the teams also harvested a slew of publicity and goodwill from their association with the competition.

The competition organizers are expecting to see a larger number of applications from schools representing more geographies this year. I’d like to see that too. Last year, we had two international schools participate: the Nizhni Novgorod State University from Russia and the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan (the overall winners).

The other six schools were US-based, with perennial participants Colorado, Purdue, and Stony Brook joined by newcomers from the University of Texas, Florida A&M University, and the hometown favorite LSU team.

Pan-USA

Where are the other international teams? Why aren’t more countries represented in the competition? India made a big push into technology in the 80s and 90s and has become a power in programming and outsourced IT management.

The Indian Institute of Technology schools have a reputation for the toughest entrance exams and acceptance requirements, and for turning out the most successful graduates. Assuming that this is true, you’d think there might be a few students who would be up for a trip to Seattle for some good coffee and fresh salmon, right? So where are they?

Germany has a reputation for deep research, engineering, and technology in general. The Max Planck Institute is a world-renowned research organization located next door to the Saarland University in sunny Saarbrucken. In addition to the Max Planck Institutes for Informatics and Software Systems, the university is also host to the German Center for Artificial Intelligence, the Center for Bioinformatics, and the Visual Computing Institute. Sounds sort of techie to me, but I could be wrong.

A team from Saarland U would have a lot of local experts to draw upon for advice and expertise. There’s still plenty of time to get a team together, pack up the lederhosen, and make plans for Seattle in November. I’m betting that the organizers would even let them bring along their university polka band to provide appropriate background music.

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