Boffins of the future gear up to build their own beastmode rigs

Student rack war begins at SC16

HPC Blog The tenth annual Student Cluster Competition kicked off Monday at the SC16 conference here in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is a competition for the ages, with some wildly divergent hardware configurations, more teams than ever before at a SC competition (14), plus some special features that are sure to throw the budding HPCers for a loop.

What is a Student Cluster Competition anyway? Glad you asked. It's an event where teams of six undergraduate students, from universities around the world, build their own supercomputers. They then race their computers to see which teams' system can run a set of HPC benchmarks and scientific applications the fastest. The only rules are that the hardware has to be available on the market and the teams can't go over the power limit of 3,000 watts.

The students have to find vendor sponsors (who supply the hardware), configure their systems, and build out whatever software infrastructure they need to run the applications. They also need to learn as much as they can about the apps in order to understand how to optimise them for their particular hardware.

Gruelling marathon is gruelling

Like the subhead says, the SC competition is tough. Students will be clustering for 48 hours straight, striving to wring the most performance on the applications without going over the power cap. They're on their own during this – no outside coaching allowed.

There are four main applications on the menu this year.

HPL (LINPACK): Students will be running the same benchmark that is used to rank systems on the semi-annual TOP500 list. It's a measure of how quickly a system executes floating-point operations to solve a dense system of linear equations. Every cluster competition in the world uses LINPACK as their first benchmark – it's tried and true.

HPCG: This is a newish benchmark from the same guy who brought us LINPACK (Dr Jack Dongarra). This one is a torture test that is designed to more closely match today's applications in HPC. You can find out more here.

Distributed Password Auditing/Recovery: Students are given data sets that contain one-way hash passwords. Their task is to verify the passwords by hashing out the hash and coming up with the actual password. They can use their own techniques, but most will use some sort of comparison to a dictionary of words or word permutations to come up with the right answers.

Paraview: This is a visualisation program that allows researchers to quickly build visual representations of their data. It's used in a wide variety of scientific fields and is equally adept at showing both quantitative and qualitative data. It also supports 3D, which is all the rage these days. Student competitors generally agree that Paraview is the most challenging of the applications this year.

ParConnect: This is the first time that students in a cluster competition will be working to replicate results from a scientific paper from a past SC conference. In this case, it's assembling the genes of the huge number of organisms sampled from pond scum. They won't be working with actual pond scum, but if I had my way...

Mystery Application: GROMACS is a fully featured molecular dynamics simulation suite designed to study proteins, lipids, polymers, and the like. If you have to analyse molecules, GROMACS is for you. But it also has wide applicability in other chemical and biological research.

There is another twist to this year's event. In the first year of the competition, there was a power failure in Reno (site of SC07). Student clusterers were thrown into a tizzy as their machines suddenly went kaput. The teams that checkpointed their work were able to recover relatively quickly, but the teams that didn’t lost hours of effort. The organisers of the competition this year are going to flip a switch at an undisclosed time to replicate that experience. That should be a lot of fun to watch.

Next up, we're going to profile the fourteen teams and handicap the field while taking a look at their individual configurations. There are a LOT of surprises in the configurations this year, so be sure to take a look. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal
    I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

    Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

    DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

    That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

    Continue reading
  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022