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Eager students, huge racks - yes, undergrad cluster wrestling is back

Why 2013 is going to be THE year for HPC battles

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2013 promises to be the breakout year for student cluster-building competitions – the most popular high-performance-computing-related sport in the entire world.

As an indication that pitting undergraduates against the clock to construct powerful number-crunchers is now a credible event, last year the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) added a student cluster-building competition to its annual get-together.

The student-made machines were judged on their performance a range of data-processing applications, which were carried out within power consumption limits and other specs.

In the last 12 months we also witnessed student clustering mania engulf China: the Asian nation conducted an intra-country play-off to determine the two universities to represent the country at ISC'12. And the United States-based Student Cluster (SC) competition didn’t stand still – it added a small-system contest to complement its annual big-iron battle.

This year, we’ll see a major expansion of the undergraduate server shoot-out schedule. A new organisation, the Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC), has put together a competition that has attracted a lot of interest within China and internationally.

So far, 30 universities from China, South Korea, Hong Kong, India and Russia have submitted applications to compete at the mid-April final in Shanghai. In June, the second annual HPCAC-ISC Student Cluster Competition will kick off in Leipzig, Germany. That will host nine teams from universities in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

2013 will close with the annual SC contest in mid-November in Denver, Colorado. In addition to the usual big-iron face-off, it will add a junior division in which teams use much less expensive hardware.

Detailed previews, competition play-by-play, and final results of all of these contests will be covered in future articles – so stay tuned. ®

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