Nine Hours of Fierce Competition at the Taiwan Student Cluster Competition—The NCHC Puts Down Roots To Push Up New Growth for HPC2012/02/29
The NCHC continues to cultivate up-and-coming HPC talent in Taiwan. It does so, in part, by offering HPC-related training courses that encourage young Taiwanese students to join in and contribute their new energy to HPC R&D. Following the successful completion of its software programming contest from 2001 to 2004, the NCHC began hosting the "π and matrix computation race" from 2006 to 2007. In 2007, the NCHC also introduced the internationally-renowned Student Cluster Competition (SCC) to Taiwanese students and encouraged their participation in the contest. In 2011, the NCHC held the Taiwan Student Cluster Competition (TSCC) to serve as a warm-up event for the SCC which is held each year in the United States during the Supercomputing (SCXX) exhibition. The winning TSCC team from Taiwan took home the SCC championship two-years in a row; once in 2010 and then again in 2011!
National Tsing Hua University Stands Out as the Leader During Fierce Competition
The NCHC hosted the 2012 TSCC at its Taichung branch on February 22nd and 23rd. During the nine-hour competition, the contestants were put through exhaustive computational exercises and were examined by a panel of expert judges. In the end, team "Especially 8" from National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) emerged on top for the second year in a row, thus, setting the foundation to challenge the third SCC championship.
Pre-game Training and Post-game Review Strengthens Contestants’ Technical Abilities
The NCHC expanded the TSCC this year in order to more closely resemble the international SCC. This was done by incorporating tests on the High Performance Computing Challenge Benchmark (HPCC Benchmark) as well as the Real-world Application Workload. On February 10th, the NCHC also held a pre-game training camp to impart special techniques and a full complement of competition skill sets to the students. On February 23rd, as soon as the competition ended, a post-game review meeting was held during which experts from the NCHC shared their experience in optimizing and fine tuning computer cluster performance as well as their techniques for solving application problems. At the same time, the student contestants exchanged their experiences and problem-solving techniques as well. The purpose of that meeting was to encourage participants to learn from each other and stimulate growth.
■Left: On Feb. 22nd, before the start of the competition, Dr. Yun-Min Li and Dr. Nan-You Chen of the NCHC explain application problems to participating teams.
■Right: On Feb. 23rd, after the competition, experts from the NCHC and contestants share techniques and experiences with each other.
In order to create a computing environment as close to that of the international competition as possible, the NCHC provided the use of its Formosa 4 supercomputer, the largest cloud cluster computing system in Taiwan, for the students to use as their primary pre-competition computing system. Participating teams had to tune and optimize the system to reach the highest level of computing efficiency within a limited amount of time. Formosa 4 is a CPU and GPU mixed cluster computer. After careful tuning by the NCHC's cluster computing experts, Formosa 4 placed 234th on the TOP500 supercomputing list and 37th on the Green500 supercomputing list world-wide in November 2011. It was a rare opportunity for the students to use such a high-performance machine and to experience a competition so closely resembling the international one.
■Left: Contestants put a bag of a popular snack called "Obedience" on the computer in hopes that the system would be obedient to their instructions and run smoothly.
■Right: Participants focus on the computer not wanting to waste a single moment.
Judges Are From Local Industry, Academia, and Research. Participants Unfold Their Best Accomplishments.
The distinguished panel of judges consisted of representatives from domestic industry, academia, and research. The panel included Prof. Shian-Shyong Tseng, Vice President of Asia University, Prof. Ruay-Shiung Chang, Chairman of the Taiwan Association of Cloud Computing (TACC), Prof. Ching-Hsien Hsu, National Chung Hua University, Ms. Peggy Shen, Senior Technical Marketing Engineer at Intel Corporation, Taiwan, Mr. Duncan Liu, Head of Division at Acer Inc., NCHC Deputy Director Wei-Cheng Huang, and NCHC Division Managers Dr. Jerry Chang, Dr. Jee-Gong Chang, and Mr. Steven Shiau. The panel voted Prof. Shian-Shyong Tseng to be chief judge.
After three hours of presentation and intensive evaluation, Team “Especially 8” of National Tsing Hua University was awarded first prize! Teams “SMS and Their Pals” and “CTxHPCxTHU,” both from Tunghai University, placed second and third places respectively. Team “Manager” of the National Taichung University of Education won the Excellent award. Teams “HPLcraft” and “HaPpyLadies,” respectively from Tunghai University and the National Taichung University of Education, were awarded for advancing to the final round. Among the participating teams, the championship team, conducted by Prof. Yeh-Ching Chung, Assistant Professor Che-Rung Lee, and Assistant Professor Jerry Chou, was formed exclusively of freshmen and sophomores who were all born in the 1980’s, according to the Taiwanese calendar (roughly in the 1990’s A.D.), so the team was named “Especially 8.” On the other hand, team “HaPpyLadies” was made up of only female members, which is not at all common in the field of computer science.
■Left: Contestants introduce the process of system tuning to the judges.
■Right: Judges from industry, academia, and research listen to the contestants presentations.
Expect Taiwanese Team To Win SCC Three Years in a Row and Continue to Foster Even More HPC Talent!
The NCHC's Director Kuo-Ning Chiang indicated that the policy of sending students to high-performance computing competitions abroad would remain unchanged. Based on the results of this competition and the two consecutive SCC wins, the NCHC’s long-term training effort to cultivate new domestic HPC talent has gradually begun bearing fruit. The NCHC will continue to host TSCC and provide a stage for domestic technology exchange and competition. It is believed that the experience will be passed down and results in the bringing up of more new talented HPC stars to shine on the international stage!
Chief judge Vice President Tseng encouraged participating teams to maintain their effort and aim for competing in the international SCC forum. Chairman Ruay-Shiung Chang of the TACC stated that he appreciated the NCHC hosting the competition and creating such a remarkable learning environment for students of computer science. He also urged teachers at TACC to lead teams to attend TSCC in the future so that this type of valuable experience can be available to even more students. Industry representative Ms. Peggy Shen indicated that HPC is one of the key factors in elevating productivity and maintaining R&D competitiveness in Taiwan. She praised the performance of the students who participated in this year's TSCC and stated her belief that future competitions would inject more fresh talent into the field. Finally, the NCHC hopes the winning teams will continue to work hard and win the 2012 SCC.
■The champion: Team “Especially 8”
■The second place: Team “SMS and Their Pals”
■The third place: Team “CTxHPCxTHU”