Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/06/china_cluster_competitors_part_3/

Young cluster wrestlers find 'hidden' sweet spot

Singapore, Shanghai and a side of Hungarian goulash

By Dan Olds, Gabriel Consulting

Posted in HPC, 6th June 2014 08:05 GMT

HPC Blog Cluster-wrestling kids are still battling it out at the Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC) and Team Shanghai (from Shanghai Jiao Tong University) is hoping to get lucky their second time around. In their first outing, the team did OK, but wasn’t a big winner. However, that same team has travelled to Guangzhou and they believe that they have a much better chance this year.

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While they have seen some problems in getting started this year, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything that’s taken the team out of their game. One advantage they might have is the secret hiding place they found in the corner behind their booth. We discuss all of these points and more, in the video.

Team Hungary, from the University of Miskolc, is the first Hungarian team to compete in any student cluster competition. In the video, you’ll see that they guys speak great English, but we have a bit of trouble hearing each other, even though I’m standing pretty close to them.

As the guys explain, this whole HPC thing is pretty new to all of them. This is the first time these students have been exposed to HPC systems, applications and programming models. Given this inexperience, Team Hungary has already achieved quite a bit by just qualifying for the finals in Guangzhou.

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They’re also running a difficult configuration in some ways. Their four nodes are supporting seven Phi co-processors, meaning they’re going to be relying heavily on the Phis to give their cluster enough processing power to challenge the teams who have larger configurations. OptimiSing these apps for any accelerator won’t be easy for students as new to the game as Team Hungary.

But one thing in their favour is a teammate who has the most technically advanced hairstyle I saw during my China trip. In the video, we talk about his hair, and whether it has been optimised especially for the ASC competition, and if it will give them a clear advantage vs the other teams.

Sun Yat-Sen University is the home team at the ASC’14 cluster competition. They’re hosting the event at the supercomputer centre on their campus, we’re eating in their dining halls, and all of our student assistants are volunteers from the school.

They’re a very popular team at ASC’14, as you’ll see from the video. They’re also pretty confident in this, their second around at the competition. According to the team, the apps are more difficult this year, but so is their team. They also are probably the only team that likes the time schedule and the rules – which means, to me at least, that they’ve figured a way to maximise their chances that other teams might not have discovered yet.

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In the video, I try my usual array of lame jokes, and try to get the team to predict that they’ll dominate the other competitors. However, the spokesperson for the team keeps her composure.

The pride of Sinagpore, Nanyang Tech University, took a few minutes to talk to us. I bantered with the team student spokesperson about what they were expecting from this, their first student cluster competition bout.

Team Singapore didn’t come to Guangzhou empty-handed. In addition to the eight-node cluster provided for them by Inspur, the students crammed 10 NVIDIA K40 GPU accelerators into their luggage for use at the competition. What’s interesting is that they brought a mix of K40c and K40m GPUs (the “m” models are passively cooled and use less juice).

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At the time of filming, they weren’t sure if they were going to install eight, nine, or all 10 GPUs. It’s all dependent on how many they can use and still stay under the 3,000 watt power cap. (They ended up competing with nine GPUs – six passively cooled, three actively cooled.)

Nanyang is looking pretty good for a first time team. They have built a competitive cluster, and are have an interesting idea with their mixing of passively cooled and actively cooled GPUs.

Next up is our final batch of four ASC’14 cluster warriors, including teams from Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and the heartland of the United States...