Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/07/china_cluster_warriors_part_4/

High power computing and awesome Chinese food? Sign me up!

Meet the students doing startling things with their racks in Guangzhou

By Dan Olds, Gabriel Consulting

Posted in HPC, 7th June 2014 10:09 GMT

HPC blog Have a look at the last of the 16 teams that competed at the ASC14 Student Cluster Competition in Guangzhou, China.

Team Korea (Ulan Institute of Science & Technology) is a second time competitor at ASC. As you’d expect, the first student I talk to from the team is, of course, Spanish. I was wondering if he was actually with Team Brazil, but no, he’s an exchange student studying computer science in Korea.

The team faced some early problems in setting up their system, but seem to have them handled and are moving ahead. They had a mid-sized cluster, six nodes, but it’s packed with six GPUs to give it more compute heft.

Video interview with Team Korea, conducted by Dan Olds.

On the GPUs, Team Korea took a different route. Rather than use NVIDIA Tesla K20s or K40s, which are designed for HPC, they went with six NVIDIA Titan GPUs, which are graphics centric. It’s not an off-the-wall choice, Titan can actually produce more flops than Tesla, but the Titans have half the memory and suck down more power. (Look for a short guest appearance by NVIDIA's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang in the video.)

Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University is no stranger to cluster competitions. ASC’14 marks their seventh international supercomputer tourney over the past 12 years. Team Taiwan has put together a formidable competition record with two LINPACK awards and a pair of overall championships. During the first five years of the cluster competitions, every time Team Taiwan showed up, they took home an award.

Tsing Hua video interview, conducted by Dan Olds.

But this Team Taiwan is mostly new to the highly competitive world of student supercomputing. However, they’ve spent months putting together their ASC’14 strategy and system plans. They came up with a system that looks to be pretty solid, four nodes with two NVIDIA K40s per node.

I still have questions about their final configuration. The team said four nodes in the video, but the spreadsheet I have from Inspur says they’re running eight nodes. I also checked their config with one of their coaches, who also said eight nodes.

Whether they’re running four nodes with 2x K40s per node, or eight nodes with one GPU per node, this is a team that knows their way around hybrid computing. Along with NUDT, Team Taiwan was one of the first teams to effectively utilize GPUs way back in 2011. Given their pedigree, it’s a pretty good bet that Taiwan is highly competitive team.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Team Hong Kong) was located in one of the noisiest parts of the room. So it took a bit of yelling back and forth to establish clear communications with the team, along with some help from our translator Claire.

Noisy video interview with Team Hong Kong! Conducted by Dan Olds with Claire the translator.

We’re interviewing Team Hong Kong at a tough time. They’re having problems installing their packages and file system. They started using a more complex installation procedure, but later converted to something easier – at least that’s what I understood.

This is the first competition for the team, and, like virtually every new team, they’re having their share of problems. But even with their slow start, the team believes they have a good chance to finish in the upper echelon of competitors, or to maybe win the whole thing.

Team Boilermaker (Purdue University) was located near the door of the large conference room that was being used for the competition. This is Purdue’s seventh student cluster competition, which ties them with Colorado for the team with the most playoff appearances.

While the school has had plenty of experience, none of the students on this edition of Team Boilermaker has competed before. They’re a pretty great bunch of kids and are really enjoying their experience in China.

Team Purdue interview with Dan Olds.

We discuss the differences between West Lafayette, Indiana, and Guangzhou, China (there are quite a few, as it turns out). We also touch on the significant differences between the scale of Purdue University and the entire ‘educational island’ (with 10 major universities) where the competition is taking place.

Purdue also has a Chinese native on their team, which is definitely a help to Team Boilermaker. He was happy to be in China, primarily for the food. For some reason, he seems to believe that the Chinese food in Guangzhou is superior to what he can get in West Lafayette, Indiana. Go figure.

Our discussion ranges from food in Guangzhou, to the highly dramatic Chinese TV shows we’ve been watching in our hotel rooms. Good talk, Purdue.

With that, we’ve now met every single one of the sixteen teams competing at ASC’14, phew. In our next reports, we’ll have an up close and personal look at Tainhe-2, the biggest supercomputer in the world, plus an interview discussing the innovative ways this system will be used. We will also spend some time with Lui Jun, Inspur’s GM of HPC. Plus we’ll let you in on the results of the competition and show you scenes from the gala awards ceremony. Stay tuned. ®