SC09 Student Cluster Competition: Go Green!

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SC09 logoThose of you that have been faithful readers of insideHPC for at least a year might remember our coverage of last year’s SC08 Cluster Challenge. Well, we’re at it again! This year’s challenge has a new name, new theme and a few new twists to the rules.

First, the competitors. Who’s permitted to participate? You won’t find doctoral candidates in the mix. The rules state that teams shall consist of up to six students and a supervisor. Students are classified as those who have not been granted a degree from four-year college or university. This leaves the door open for — you guessed it — high school students. Supervisors are not permitted to provide anything but pizza, snacks and soda: No Technical Assistance.

This year’s SC09 Student Cluster Competition is built around a “Go Green!” theme, tying it in with this year’s show. Just like the previous competition, this year’s rules have capped the overall power requirements of each team’s gear to a pair of 120-volt, 20-amp circuits. Each circuit will have a soft limit of 13 amps. Penalties will be assessed if a respective team trips an alarm on the metered power circuits. Each team’s hardware, along with the metered power units, must fit into a single rack.

The respective teams are not, however, responsible for providing their own hardware. Each team partners with one or more vendors in order to provide the necessary compute and networking gear for the competition. Vendor partners also have the option of providing training and other financial support to assist the teams along the way. The student/vendor teams are permitted to use any hardware platforms, operating systems and software stacks they want as long as they meet the power and space requirements. So, who are the teams?

  • University of Colorado: Captain: Doug Smith; Vendor: Aspen Systems
  • Purdue University: Captain: Preston Smith; Vendor: HP
  • Stony Brook University: Captain: Xaingman Jiao; Vendor: Dell/AMD/Mellanox
  • Arizona State University: Captain: Earl Duque; Vendor: Microsoft/IBM

Now that we have our teams and our gear, lets compute something. What “something?” This year, the workloads have been split into two categories: benchmark runs and application runs. Results of each of the two categories will be announced separately throughout the week of the show. Here is the flavor of HPC goodness for this year’s competition:

  • HPCC (benchmark category): The ubiquitous High Performance Computing Challenge benchmark will be used for the, well, benchmark category. The seven-suite-slurry of synthetic HPC wonderment will be utilized to stress multiple technical aspects of the respective platforms.
  • NWChem (application category): NWChem is a computational chemistry code developed by the nice folks in the Molecular Sciences Group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). NWChem provides methods to compute the properties of molecular and periodic systems using standard quantum mechanical descriptions of the electronic wave function or density. It also has the capability to perform classical molecular dynamics and free energy simulations.
  • Chombo (application category): Chombo provides a set of tools for implementing finite difference methods for the solution of partial differential equations on block-structured adaptively refined rectangular grids
  • WRF (application category): The Weather Research and Forecasting Model is a next-generation mesoscale numerical weather prediction system designed to serve both operational forecasting and atmospheric research needs.
  • VisIT (application category): VisIt is a free interactive parallel visualization and graphical analysis tool for viewing scientific data on Unix and PC platforms.

This year’s competition includes new participants, new student teams and new vendors. All told, it will be both challenging and rewarding for both the participants and audience.


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  1. Hey guys,

    Nice article. However, the Captains you listed might actually be “Coaches,” because ASU’s Team Captain is Ben Jimenez, and our coach is Earl Duque.


  2. Ben – thanks for the clarification. And good luck!