The NCHC Inspires University Students To Participate In the International SC Student Cluster Competition2013/03/29
Since the American Supercomputing Conference (SC) launched the Student Cluster Competition (SCC) in 2007, it has become the most well-known high-performance computing (HPC) university student competition in the world! In 2012, Europe's International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) started its first SCC as well. China, an emerging power in HPC, also started its own SCC contest in 2012, and in 2013, expanded it to be a competition for all Asian university students. It has become a worldwide trend for countries possessing advanced HPC capabilities to nurture HPC talent by means of competition.
Pre-game Training and Post-game Review Strengthens Contestants’ Technical Abilities
The National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC) has a strong history of continuously fostering up-and-coming HPC talent in Taiwan. 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. Then, in order to encourage participation in the international competition, in 2007, the NCHC introduced its own Student Cluster Competition (SCC) to Taiwanese students. In 2011, the NCHC held the Taiwan Student Cluster Competition (TSCC) to serve as a warm-up event for SCC, which is held each year in the United States during the Supercomputing Conference (SCXX). The winning TSCC team from Taiwan took home the SCC championship two years in a row--once in 2010 and then again in 2011!
Serving as an incubator for new HPC talent in Taiwan, the NCHC has hosted TSCC for three years in a row now. The NCHC has helped make TSCC the most respected HPC-related contest in all of Taiwan! Unlike its US-based international counterpart, the primary focus of TSCC is on training. The NCHC hosted a pre-game training camp to teach the contestants High-Performance Linpack (HPL) and efficiency tuning. On March 28th, as soon as the competition ended, a post-game review meeting was held during which NCHC professionals shared their cluster computer efficiency tuning techniques with the students in hopes of strengthening the contestants’ technical capability and, as a result, helping them shine on the international stage!
■Pre-game training camp (left) and post-game review meeting (right)
Gathering and Transferring Experience To New Blood
After three years of participation in SCC, Taiwanese students are now considered respected veterans in the competition. Each year, Taiwanese students gather for the competition, eager and energetic to unfold their capabilities for the win! Four of the six teams that entered the finals included veteran TSCC contestants. The veteran contestants passed on what they had learned from previous competitions to the rookie competitors. For example, a Tunghai University (THU) graduate student who attended TSCC previously came back as an advisor to the new THU team. The team from National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) was particularly mindful of passing on its experience. Since the first TSCC in 2011, some of the NTHU team members who had international competition experience led their younger teammates to compete in TSCC.
Through TSCC, the experience of HPC technology is passed from one generation of contestants to the next. The team from National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) joined TSCC for the first time this year. The NCKU team indicated that they would continue participating in future competitions. This year, an additional team joined the contest to watch and learn from the competition and the other contestants. This indicates that the HPC experience has been passed from one generation to the next, and that the pool of HPC talent in Taiwan continues to gain an infusion of new blood each year!
■TSCC 2013 group photo including contestants, coaches, NCHC referees, and judges
Emulating SCC--TSCC 2013 Application Questions: Typhoon Morakot and Molecular Dynamics
Each year, the US-based SCC competition application questions are based on focal R&D topics in the scientific and research communities. In the past, some of these applications have covered such topics as drug design, weather forecasting, password decryption, and even the evolution of the universe! The application questions are extremely challenging for the contest teams! Mirroring SCC's format, TSCC also includes HPL efficiency tuning, an evaluation criterion used since 2011 to determine the top-ranking supercomputers on the TOP500 supercomputer list. This year, the application category included a molecular dynamics simulation and a simulation of domestic flooding in Taiwan. In this way, TSCC gives contestants the opportunity to apply HPC toward solving real-world domestic problems.
So that contestants learn how to allocate computing resources and carry out calculations efficiently, as well as to mirror the international SCC's trend in testing big data, for TSCC 2013, the NCHC choose questions on the Meinong catchment area in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, as well as the Jiji weir located in Nantou, Taiwan. The contestants were provided the big data on rainfall from Typhoon Marokot, and then asked to calculate the potential for flooding using the data given them. The students used the Nanoscale Molecular Dynamics (NAMD) software package to simulate the state of the macromolecular systems. This also served to strengthen the contestants’ problem-solving abilities.
■ The contestants used data from Typhoon Marokot (left) to simulate the resulting rainfall, drainage, and potential for flooding of Meinong, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
■ The overflow discharge simulation of Jiji Weir in Nantou, Taiwan (right) including 200-year flood frequencies
Participants Unfold Their Best Accomplishments In Front of Judges From Domestic Industry, Academia, and Research
The distinguished panel of judges consisted of representatives from domestic industry, academia, and research. They included Prof. Ruay-Shiung Chang, President of the Taiwan Hospitality and Tourism College and the Chairman of the Taiwan Association of Cloud Computing (TACC), Professor Chu-Sing Yang of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Professor Yue-Shan Chang of National Taipei University (NTU), Mr. Chie-Chang Weng, Deputy General Manager of 5V Technologies, NCHC Researchers Dr. Jee-Gong Chang and Dr. Cheng-Yu Shen, and NCHC Associate Researcher Mr. Shun-Tai Wang.
The panel voted Prof. Ruay-Shiung Chang Chief Judge of the competition. After many hours of presentations and deliberation among the judges, NTHU 's “91%” team won the competition! THU's team, “THU•HPC•NMG,” and National Taichung University of Education's “5+1” team were both awarded second place. THU's "TMD12UNIT” team was awarded the Excellence award as well.
With three years of training and competition behind them, many of the teams were quite tenured. They finished the first stage of the competition, system efficiency, all exceeding expectations and scoring nearly equally well. At the end of competition, the team “91%” had nearly full marks as a result of their thorough preparation and sound practices in solving application problems.
■The team's presentation (left)
■The judges recognize the contestants’ outstanding efforts (right)
The Taiwanese Team Is Expected To Win at SCC
The NCHC's Director Ce-Kuen Shieh indicated that fostering Taiwan’s HPC talent through competition will remain an unchanging policy of the NCHC. The TSCC competition has become the representative norm in boosting Taiwan’s soft power. Many outstanding Taiwanese nationals have gained world-wide attention with their solid performance in these international competitions. Domestic industry also needs talent in cluster and parallel computing. Director Shieh urged teachers to lead their students to attend TSCC every year and to make TSCC a platform on which students can compete and exchange knowledge. He believes that the NCHC will cultivate more and more experts in HPC as time goes on.
Chief Judge, President Ruay-Shiung Chang encouraged the contestants to continue their efforts in HPC and to prepare for the next competition. He said that cluster computing and big data have become a worldwide trend and that those who are best prepared will have the greatest opportunities. Judge Professor Chu-Sing Yang said that he was impressed with the contestants’ serious attitude, team work, and their predecessors’ mentoring. He urged the teams to carry on winning honor for the country.
Deputy General Manager Chie-Chang Weng, speaking from domestic industry's point of view, affirmed that the NCHC-sponsored competitions have been adding new blood to and enhancing Taiwan’s soft power. He mentioned that Taiwan's industry needs people who have practical experience in cluster computing, and he urged the students to continue strengthening their skills. We hope that this year’s champion, the “91%” team from NTHU, will achieve its best performance in the upcoming Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC13) and the marathon SCC13 HPC competition in the United States.
■ The TSCC 2013 champions-- NTHU's "91%" team
■ The TSCC 2013 second place winners-- THU's "THU•HPC•NMG" team
■ The TSCC 2013 second place winners-- National Taichung University of Education's "5+1" team
■ The TSCC 2013 Excellence award winners-- THU's "TMD12UNIT" team