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ISC’14: Ever wanted to build data-crunching beast to beat them all?

New way to enter - plus highlights from Leipzig

HPC blog The ISC’14 Student Cluster Competition closed out last week in Leipzig. What a ride... It was an outstanding competition, with story lines straight from Hollywood. If John Hughes were still making movies, he’d be writing the script and shopping it around the big studios right now.

(For those of you who don’t know what a Student Cluster Competition is, here’s a quick primer.)

Let’s start at the beginning, with a couple of pre-competition webcasts that set the stage.

The first webcast features a conversation with Gilad Shainer, Chair of the HPC Advisory Council, and the main force behind establishing the ISC version of the event. We cover a lot of ground in our conversation, starting with of why Gilad worked so hard to establish the ISC competition and then a more specific discussion of what’s coming up at ISC’14. Breaking News: One of the questions I hear the most when I’m covering these cluster competitions is “How can we get in on this?”

Typically, this comes from a university professor who’d like to get his students involved in the competitions. But I also hear this from people working at research organisations, national labs, or even folks who work in the industry who’d like to sponsor their favourite university in a cluster battle.

Youtube Video

Until now, the answer has been “get a student team together, submit an application to one of the three major competitions, and hope you make the cut.”

In this webcast, Gilad announces a new path into the cluster competition final at ISC – the Regional Competition Option. If a geographic region (country, state, or even city) holds a regional student cluster competition with a reasonably large level of participation (say 6 or more teams), the winning team from that competition will be guaranteed a slot at the next ISC in Germany.

I’ve already heard rumblings about potential regional competitions in a couple of different countries, and even one for the Big 10 College sports conference (which, strangely enough actually has 14 member institutions.)

First ISC’14 Cluster Competition Pre-Game Show

In this webcast, I spend some time with Brian Sparks talking about the ISC’14 competition field. Brian is a Director with the HPC Advisory Council, and has been deeply involved with the ISC cluster competition. The beginning of the call is used to familiarize viewers with the competition, the schedule, and the applications that the student teams will be facing in Leipzig.

Youtube Video

Starting at about the 8:30 mark, we discuss each of the eleven teams competing at ISC’14 (teams representing every continent except Australia and Antarctica). We break down their games, discuss their training regimes, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

We also try to stir up some team dissension along the way, pointing out, for example, that the University of Hamburg team was all smiles in their individual pictures, but no smiles in their group picture. Is this meaningful? Does it reveal internal team strife? We figure it does.

Finally, we reveal our predictions for the Overall Champion, Highest LINPACK, and Fan Favourite awards. Brian was completely wrong on his predictions. My predictions on LINPACK were wrong, but I correctly picked South Africa as the Overall Champion, which would have made me a bundle in the betting pool. ®

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