ASC 2021 Student Cluster Competition:  Wrap Up

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By Dan Olds

The final awards were handed out at the Asia Supercomputer Community‘s ASC20-21 Student Cluster Competition and what a competition it was! This was really a dual event this year, with a set of 21 teams working out of a stadium at Southern University of Science & Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, China, and seven additional teams working on AWS cloud clusters from their home countries. Both sets of teams ran the same applications during the same time period.

The applications were very challenging, ranging from natural language processing to astrophysics to quantum computing simulation. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the applications.

First up, we have an interview with engineers from Peng Cheng Laboratory, the creators of the Quantum Simulation Challenge.

Next, here’s an interview with Dr. Niu, who is a pulsar expert and who helped put together the PRESTO challenge.

We also have interviews with Dr. Lian Ping Wang, the Director of the Center for Computational Science & Engineering at the host institution, SUSTech.

Ian Colle of Amazon AWS took a few minutes to speak with us about the importance of student cluster competitions and why Amazon is an enthusiastic participant.

And it wouldn’t be a student cluster competition if we didn’t get a few words from Dr. Jack Dongarra, right?

The Awards…On-Premise Division

In a surprise development that sent shock waves through the student cluster competition world, Jinan University grabbed the ASC21 Gold Medal. The team achieved perfect scores on the natural language exam (where they had to construct a neural network that could pass multiple English exams) and the quantum simulation challenge. What’s shocking is that this is only their second cluster competition. We haven’t seen an upset like this since South Africa’s CHPC team took home a gold at their very first ISC competition back in 2013.

Tsinghua University came in second place, a position that is somewhat unfamiliar for them given that they’ve won ten Gold Medals in various international challenges. Typically, the ASC competition serves as a tune up for them before the championships at ISC in June. Still, they were very close to winning ASC21, notching top scores on HPL, HPCG, and the PRESTO pulsar search application. Tsinghua also received the prestigious ePrize along with an Application Innovation Award for the mystery application MPAS-A.

Sun Yat-Sen University topped all competitors in the HPL (LINPACK) competition, while Beihang University pulled in the Application Innovation award for QuEST, the quantum computing simulation. Shanxi University also received an award for their work on the language exam challenge.

The Awards…Online Division

Tiawan’s National Tsing Hua University won the Gold Medal, adding to their impressive total of 18 awards dating back to the first cluster competition way back in 2007. This team was the winner of ASC19 and the first non-mainland China team to win at an ASC competition. Good to see that they’re keeping up their winning ways.

The Aussie team from Monash University received an Application Innovation Award for MPAS-A, which is the first time an Australian team has won a major competition trophy. Another first time awardee, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, took home the Application Innovation Award for the QuEST Challenge. University of Warsaw excelled in the language exam and was rewarded with an Application Innovation Award as was EAFIT University from Colombia – a first for both schools.

With any luck we’ll be on the ground in China for the next ASC competition, which will make for much more exciting and up to date coverage. Next up is the ISC21 cluster competition which will feature a clash of champions, including Tsinghua University, CHPC from South Africa, and former champions the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University, and Sun Yat-Sen University. Stay tuned!

Dan Olds is chief research officer at HPC industry analyst firm Intersect360 Research.