EPCC returns to Student Cluster Competition at ISC’17

Author: Emmanouil Farsarakis
Posted: 25 May 2017 | 12:10

The Student Cluster Competition is held three times a year, at Supercomputing, ISC High Performance and the Asia Student Supercomputing Challenge. EPCC has taken part in the past with great success and we're returning to the competition at ISC17 with a strong team of students from our MSc in High Performance Computing, and MSc in High Performance Computing with Data Science.

EPCC has a long history in HPC education. Starting out as a link between Scottish industry and the University of Edinburgh, EPCC recognised a shortage in people with HPC skills as an opportunity to create an MSc programme with the primary aim of filling that workforce gap. This is how the MSc in High Performance Computing (and later MSc in HPC with Data Science) came to be.

Dr David Henty and Dr Mario Antonioletti at the School of Physics. Image credit: The University of Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy Image Archive.Fast forward a few decades (2.6 to be exact) and EPCC’s MSc in HPC, and MSc in HPC with Data Science have become world leaders in HPC higher education. Always in search of new and innovative ways to get students involved in HPC activities outside the academic bubble, EPCC has actively encouraged students’ collaboration with industry as part of their dissertation projects, and more recently has repeatedly funded teams of MSc students to compete in the Student Cluster Competition at ISC.

Last time this happened was June 2014 when I was a student on the MSc and – at the risk of tooting my own horn – my team returned with the prestigious “Highest Linpack” award, having broken the competition record for highest HPC Linpack score on a cluster running on <3kWatts peak.

EPCC MSc students receiving Highest Linpack award June 2014. Left to right: Chenghui Quan, Georgios Iniatis, Emmanouil Farsarakis and Konstantinos Mouzakitis.Benefits of taking part

Participating in the Student Cluster Competition can be greatly beneficial to students. With the help of EPCC, students are brought into contact with an industrial partner  – Boston Limited – who provide all the hardware and relevant support the team requires to build a competitive, innovative, energy efficient cluster.

Students have direct access to cutting edge technologies which they may never otherwise have had and make use of their newly acquired knowledge to port and optimise widely used HPC and data science codes to their cluster. While Boston Limited works with industry leaders like Intel, NVIDIA, CoolIT and Mellanox to provide top-of-the-line hardware options to the team, EPCC offers the first line of support to the team of students, helping them to coordinate, make informed decisions and contact the right people for support as issues arise. EPCC also funds travel for on-site training at Boston Limited headquarters in London and to the competition itself.

After two years of absence, we are delighted to be sending a team of four MSc students to the competition in Frankfurt this June. The team has been working long and hard, writing up proposals to secure their place at the competition and working with David Power and Konstantinos Mouzakitis of Boston Limited, their individual project supervisors, and myself (as their coach this time round) to prepare for the competition.

No hardware architecture decision is final until that best HPL run on the first day of the competition, so there is constant decision making about hardware types, numbers, densities and software versions, libraries, options… The only thing we can guarantee is that the Team-EPCC booth at the ISC’17 Student Cluster Competition section will be well worth a visit! We'll be in Booth A-1363.

Team-EPCC. Left to right: Alexandros Nakos, Andriani Mappoura, Manos Farsarakis (team coach), Chao Peng, Jingmei Zhang
The competitive aspect of the students’ project means not much about the cluster’s hardware can be revealed at this time. The students have chosen some interesting hardware for their cluster and we already have some very promising initial results. The team will be going to London for training on the hardware in two weeks time. Perhaps there will be some photos leaked from that trip… so stay tuned!

To keep up-to-date on Team-EPCC’s preparations for the competition and for live updates at the competition, you can follow us on Twitter: @teamepcc or keep an eye out here for the team’s next blog post.

Meet the team: Student Cluster Comp video on YouTube.

The image above shows Team-EPCC. Left to right: Alexandros Nakos, Andriani Mappoura, Manos Farsarakis (team coach), Chao Peng, Jingmei Zhang.


Emmanouil Farsarakis, EPCC
Twitter: @efarsarakis

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