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Meet the cluster teams: Can Slippery Rock or Sun Devils burn?

First look at Slippery Rock and Arizona State $2,500 cluster teams

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HPC blog Here's an up close and personal look at two of the four teams that competed in the SC13 Commodity Track Cluster Competition. These teams could build anything their hearts desired as long as the total cost was less than $2,500 (US).

University of Slippery Rock (Team Rock)

This is the second year that Slippery Rock has fielded a team for a SC cluster competition. Last year, Team Rock vied for the LittleFE crown by crunching Traveling Salesman problems day and night. This year, they’re in the Commodity Track, running HPC benchmarks and apps on a $2,500 home brew machine.

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In this video, we meet Team Rock and learn that there isn’t particularly slippery rock anywhere near the university (just as there isn’t a real Cluster Crown or Chalice of Cluster Glory.) The school was actually named for a nearby creek that, assumedly, some farmer dubbed ‘Slippery Rock Creek’ after falling into it a couple of hundred times.

When looking at Team Rock’s cluster, note the state of the art augmented cooling provided by a local Lowes. You will also hear the team give major props to their faculty and coaches for building a solid HPC curriculum at Slippery Rock. Part of this is “Parallel Fridays”, which, surprisingly enough, isn’t “Blondie Night” at the local TGI Fridays watering hole.

We also talk about how Team Rock came into being. It turns out that a Slippery Rock professor observed the cluster competition at SC11 and it inspired him to recruit a Team Rock for the SC12 and ’13 competitions.

Arizona State University (Team Sun Devil)

The Sun Devils have brought serious style to the Commodity Track competition. While other teams cobbled together custom (read “cheap”) cluster enclosures from shop class scraps or discarded PCs, the boys from the desert wastelands give us a distinctly Scandinavian take on clustering and HPC.

Their nodes are housed in a handsome IKEA 6-drawer unit from the stylish Helmer collection. The drawers move quietly and smoothly, giving users easy access to each node. Constructed from sturdy (and head conducting) sheet metal, the Helmer cluster enclosure is a perfect complement for a hip new data center or a computer room in a trendy loft lab.

Watch Video

You can meet the team and check out the system in the video above. It’s actually a very cool design, and quite a price performer too. But the team did have to make some compromises in order to stay within the spending limit and the limits of the Helmer drawer.

What I didn’t ask, and should have, is if they looked at the Malm, Vittjso or Fjalkinge lines and why they didn’t go with those styles. You can get taller drawers to accommodate accelerators, plus get a warm wood-like finish that will blend in with any décor. It’s something to think about for next year for sure.

We talk about their system configuration and the compromises they had to make along the way. The group from Arizona State University, Team Sun Devil, has brought something unique to the SC13 Commodity Track: the customized IKEA node cabinet. Find out whether they went with the ‘Malm’ or the ‘Vittsjo’ or the ‘Fjalkinge’ – and why they decided against using accelerators – in this video. ®

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