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Tue, August 04, 2015
NCHC Headlines
2015/06/10
The National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC), under the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs), is devoted to cultivating new talent in high performance computing (HPC) and inspiring Taiwanese students to step up to the international stage! The 2015 Taiwan Student Cluster Competition (TSCC 2015) was held on June 3 rd and 4 th , 2015, at the NCHC’s Hsinchu, Taiwan headquarters office. Eight teams entered the final rounds of the competition. In order to make it to the finals, they had to prove their abilities by demonstrating how to assemble cluster computers, optimize hardware performance, and solve real-world application problems using their clusters. At the end of contest, two teams from National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), “Cannot Reach Agreement” (Fig. 1) and “Click Like to Understand More” (Fig. 2), took first place and second place, respectively. As part of the competition, the champion, as well as the second place, third place, and two “honorable mentions” were selected. The cash prizes awarded for each category were NT$120,000 (USD$4,000), NT$50,000 (USD$1,600), NT$30,000 (USD$1,000), and NT$10,000 (USD$325) respectively. The first place champion and the second place teams, both from NTHU, will go on to form a joint team that will compete in the Student Cluster Challenge (SCC) to be held at the 2015 Supercomputing Conference and Exhibition (SC15), in Austin, Texas, USA, November, 2015. At the same time, they will also prepare to compete in the Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC) in the spring of 2016. The Passing of Competition Experience to “New Blood” In order to cultivate excellence in Taiwanese students in the field of HPC, for the past five years, the NCHC has hosted the TSCC. The TSCC has inspired many Taiwanese students to compete in international cluster computer competitions, with exceptional outcomes. For example, Taiwanese students won the SCC championships both in 2010 and 2011! Taiwanese students also won the High-Performance Linpack (HPL) championship in 2014, breaking that particular competition’s previous record! This year’s competition attracted 13 student teams from domestic universities. All the participants were groomed and tutored for the competition by veteran contestants. The former contestants of the same school formed instructor teams to pass down their knowledge and experience to the newcomers. After the preliminary competition, eight teams entered the finals, including two teams each from NTHU and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), one team each from National Chiao Tung University (NCTU), National Taichung University of Education (NTCU), Tunghai University (THU), and a joint team from NCTU, National Central University (NCU), NTCU, and National Hsinchu University of Education (NHCUE).  Specially Designed Contest Problems Continue To Foster New Talent TSCC 2015 was held as a reference to SCC, which puts to test the students’ abilities to assemble cluster computers. In the past, the focus of the competition was primarily on the hardware deployment and system management of cluster computers. Owing to the global trend in HPC, hardware is no longer considered the only means by which to raise the capacity of the technology. The utilization of soft power has become the new trend. In order to address this new trend, the NCHC provided specially designed problems as well as added “multi-core high performance program tuning” to the applications section of the competition. This required the students to write parallel programs that utilize multi-core processors that increase computing performance and speed up problem solving. This was new to the competition and had not been incorporated into SCC at the time. It was not only a test to their familiarity with hardware, but also an opportunity to greatly enhance the students’ software capabilities.  TSCC 2015 Convener, Dr. Hsi-Ya Chang, said, “The NCHC provided equipment, training, and expert guidance in order to bring this competition to a professional level, and to hold the meaningfulness and value of the promotion as well as to foster domestic talent. As evidenced in the TOP500 supercomputers list, the number of cluster computers deployed in Taiwan has steadily decreased in recent years. Ten years ago, there were a total of 11 supercomputers on the list, but currently the NCHC’s Windrider supercomputer is the only supercomputer still on the list. As compared to academic and research communities of other technologically advanced countries, students in Taiwan have far fewer hardware resources. However, Taiwanese students have great potential in the field of HPC innovation and soft power. With help from organizations such as the NCHC, Taiwanese students will be able to cultivate their capabilities and experience soft power breakthroughs!” Rising Stars in the Field of Cluster Computing  Fig. 1:  The championship winners of TSCC 2015, NTHU’s“Cannot Reach Agreement”  Although most of the students had little to no previous cluster competition experience, they appeared to be even more creative than the teams of previous years’. In the end, the two teams from NTHU, “Cannot Reach Agreement” and “Click Like to Understand More,” won the championship and the second place, respectively, with their overall achievements. The first place champion team leader, Wei-Jun Chen, a sophomore student from the Department of Computer Science at NTHU, said, “None of my teammates had competition experience, but thanks to the training and coaching offered by our upper-grade classmates, we were able to successfully navigate all aspects of the competition! Although the deployment procedure didn’t go quite as smoothly as expected, everything went back on track once we made the proper adjustments. That was quite a relief! One thing we learned is that no matter how well in advance you plan, there will always be unexpected challenges to overcome. We had to work together closely and reach agreement quickly in order to win!” Fig. 2:  The second place winners of TSCC 2015, NTHU’s “Click Like to Understand More”  The leader of the team that took second place in the competition, Bo-Yu Kuo, a junior in the Department of Computer Science, NTHU, who will also lead the team to attend SCC, said, “Most of my team members have had no experience with cluster competitions either. We encountered several unexpected problems that we were eventually able to overcome. We wish to give special thanks to the NCHC for hosting this competition, which gave us students an excellent overview of SCC, the upcoming large-scale international competition we will compete in, and a great opportunity to practice for that contest! It was a very rare and rewarding experience! We found that, through the promotion of the NCHC, many more Taiwanese students will be able to attend this competition, and we feel that everyone is growing in their skills and training.” The third place prize went to NTCU’s “Seal Can Climb Tree” team. Although their performance tuning results were not sufficient to win, they seemed to have a deeper understanding of the application problems, which improved their final overall score.   The highest score of the performance tuning optimization category was awarded to one of the teams that received honorable mention, “Childish Ghost and Its Happy Partners.” They used the novel Scientific Linux system, modified by the world famous Fermilab solely for solving scientific computing problems, to set up their computing environment. They achieved an extremely impressive computing performance rating of 345.6 Gflops!  Since the first TSCC was held in 2007, the number of teams competing has been on the increase year after year. This seems to indicate that the cluster computing “seeds” planted way back then are continuing to grow. The NCHC will do its part in continuing to cultivate new talent in the field of HPC and create even more future HPC superstars!  
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