Preparation for the ISC 2019 Student Cluster Competition

Author: Xu Guo
Posted: 2 May 2019 | 15:44


This blog was contributed by TeamEPCC for ISC19 Student Cluster Competition. Photo shows (left to right): Mark Klaisoongnoen, Zhenzhong Xu; Christodoulos Stylianou, and Mario Martinez Requena.

Please visit us at Booth A-1453 at ISC 2019 in Frankfurt and vote us as your favourite team!

In the international ISC Student Cluster Competition (SCC), student teams build small clusters of different architectures to achieve the highest performance by running a series of applications and benchmarks under 3kW peak power limitation. The competition will be held in June in Frankfurt (Germany) as an integral part of the ISC High Performance Conference and Exhibition, and TeamEPCC will be there.

This year's competition consists of three benchmarks (HPL, HPCC and HPCG), three HPC applications (OpenFoam, CP2K and Swift), two AI applications (TensorFlow and Horovod), and one secret application. The secret application will be announced on the day of the competition.

TeamEPCC 2019 comprises four highly-motivated students from EPCC’s MSc in High Performance Computing and our MSc in High Performance Computing with Data Science. The team members benefit from intensive training and lectures within EPCC, which has world-class recognition and a strong background in high performance computing (HPC).

Meet the team

Christodoulos (Chris) Stylianou was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus. He graduated in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Imperial College London (ICL), specialising in Digital System Design and Embedded Devices. During his time as an undergraduate his passion for HPC was born. Consequently, in 2018 he enrolled in the MSc in High Performance Computing with Data Science at the University of Edinburgh to pursue his passion and further expand his horizons. His interests lie in the areas of Bayesian Inference and Machine Learning as well as the programming of various devices such as GPUs, FPGAs and DSPs. At the moment his main interest is about portable programming models targeting heterogeneous high-performance infra-structures in scientific applications.

Mario Martínez Requena grew up in a small town in the countryside of Spain. He graduated from the University of Alicante in Computer Engineering in a High Academic Performance group, specialising in Hardware Engineering. This specialisation prompted his interest in low-level programming and computer architectures. After his undergraduate studies, he enrolled in the MSc in HPC with Data Science in 2018. He has wide-ranging experience in informatics topics, from deep neural networks to real time systems, and thanks to his degree specialisationalso in systems administration, parallel computing and low-level computer architecture.

Mark Klaisoongnoen graduated in business and economics from the University of Mannheim in Germany with interests in finance, taxation and information systems. Throughout his studies he has been programming, scripting and working as software engineer. After working in data analytics and IT services, Mark currently studies High Performance Computing with Data Science. He enjoys the challenge with numerical algorithms, parallel computing and reinforcement learning. Focusing on multi-GPU systems Mark is interested in efficient communication that underpins scaling distributed deep learning.

Zhenzhong Xu (Zhen) is from China and graduated in Computer Science and Technology from Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications. During his studies he was certified with CCNA and RHCE  by Cisco and Redhat. Apart from technical computer knowledge, Zhen acquired training in management theory and efficient team collaboration and is a certified Information System Project Manager. After graduation, he joined Sugon as an HPC engineer where he maintained clusters and constructed virtualisation platforms in VMware vSphere to leverage high-performance servers. Zhen is experienced in assembling servers by rack and blade-mount. He started the MSc in HPC in 2018 and is very willing to try his best to help the team.

Mrs Xu Guo (TeamEPCC’s coach and main contact) is from China. Xu joined EPCC as an Applications Consultant in 2006 after graduated with an MSc in High Performance Computing from The University of Edinburgh. She has worked on a wide range of national and international HPC projects since then and is particularly interested in application development and enabling on various HPC architectures. Her current and recent roles include leading several activities within the applications enabling service for the multi-phased European project PRACE, coordinating the eCSE programme for the UK national service ARCHER, and coordinating the application evaluations for HPC-Europa3 Transnational Access Regional programme. She is one of the MSc supervisors for EPCC’s MSc in HPC/MSc in HPC with Data Science and has been TeamEPCC's Coach for the ISC Student Cluster Competitions since 2013. 

Dr Juan Rodriguez Herrera (TeamEPCC’s deputy coach) joined EPCC as an Applications Developer in December 2015 after completing a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Almeria (Spain). At EPCC he is currently involved in the NextGenIO project (an EC H2020 project about the I/O challenge for the Exascale), and the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research. He is also one of the ARCHER Helpdesk team. Occasionally he collaborates in teaching ARCHER training courses as well as Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry workshops. His past EPCC activities include being part of the Adept project (an EC FP7 project about energy efficiency in parallel technologies), and benchmarking I/O performance on multiple HPC architectures.

Team motivation

The MSc in HPC facilitates understanding for distinct and balanced performance considerations of HPC hardware and software. It prepares us with the underlying fundamentals to choose the right combination of components, configuration, operating system, to install drivers, failure management, fixing things and exploring the system bottom-up. We are exceedingly curious about putting our pre-competition research and preparation into practice. This is the perfect challenge we are looking for! Having participated in IoT, cloud and grid computing hackathons, we share an intrinsic curiosity for hands-on experience, to get things done – hopefully not broken, but definitely fixed. 

Team members have attended conferences in various fields. We acknowledge that conference content is valuable as it presents innovations and novelties, and we agree on the fact that communication and exchange with other participants is one of our main goals. While we are extremely committed to the competition, we expect to face and meet highly motivated participants in other teams. Bridging the gap between teams, we want to foster exchange. We truly believe that individual knowledge sharing leads to overall exponential knowledge gains. Our team prepares various knowledge hubs to be exposed at ISC. Learning from others’ failure and sharing personal encounters on how to configure the system or prepare for the competition, participants including our team members will make the most out of this unique experience.

ISC attracts outstanding researchers and very well-known industry partners. We believe in our passion and love having the privilege to take part in the Student Cluster Competition at a highly respected conference with an international reputation. We want to contribute hard work, motivation and, above all, knowledge sharing hubs to its student and visitor experience.

Collaboration with Boston Ltd and EPCC

EPCC was established in 1990 and is a leading European supercomputing centre. Its aim is to accelerate the effective exploitation of novel computing throughout industry, academia and commerce. This is achieved through a range of activities including research, training programmes, and commercial contract work. EPCC houses a wide variety of leading-edge HPC facilities including ARCHER, which is the United Kingdom’s National Supercomputing Service, with more than 100,000 CPU cores. In addition, EPCC is a major provider of HPC training in Europe with an international reputation for excellence in HPC education and research. As a key strength of EPCC, HPC education has a dedicated training team and covers courses from the fundamentals of parallel programming models through to advanced performance optimisation techniques for leading-edge HPC architectures.

Boston Limited has been providing first-to-market technology to a diverse client base since 1992. In 1994, Boston became the first company to bring Silicon Valley based Super Micro Computer, Inc. (NASDQ: SMCI) to Europe, reselling their high-performance, energy efficient motherboards, chassis and server systems. Since then, Boston has become one of Supermicro’s most respected technology partners and a world-renowned systems integrator, designing their own award-winning range of server, storage and workstation solutions. Boston Limited has been the industry sponsor for TeamEPCC since ISC 2013, providing great support and training for the team, and helping them reach an award winning score. 

Cluster configuration

After researching the announced benchmarks and discussing hardware options with our sponsor Boston Limited, we are focusing on a balanced hybrid architecture with eight CPU-only nodes and one additional boost node including multiple NVIDIA V100 GPGPUs. Please visit us at ISC19 - we will be more than happy to share the details of our final cluster configuration with you.

Meet us at ISC 2019 in Frankfurt

Even though the competition will keep us busy, we will always be delighted to show visitors our cluster and explain how we built it, its configuration and how the components complement each other to provide the highest possible performance and efficiency within the competition's power limit. We would love to interact with visitors to discuss various options and get useful feedback. We believe that our remarkable work and impressive results will pique the interest of all the attendees and our preparation for our booth visitors' experience will reward everyone who drops by. Please visit us at Booth A-1453 at ISC 2019 in Frankfurt and vote us as your favourite team!

Working on HPC is something we really love to do, and this competition motivates and inspires us to deliver high quality work. During the conference week, TeamEPCC will share photos and videos of our activities through these accounts:

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