USTC stu­dents im­press at su­per­com­put­ing con­test

China Daily (Canada) - - ADVERTISEMENT - By ZHU LIXIN in He­fei zhulixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

“Our goal is to tap the po­ten­tial of ev­ery stu­dent through team­work and demon­strate our con­cen­tra­tion, self-con­fi­dence and en­thu­si­asm in the world’s top con­test for high per­for­mance com­put­ing,” said pro­fes­sor An Hong from the Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy of China.

As coach of the USTC-Su­gon team, An has achieved even more than she ex­pected.

Dur­ing the 29th In­ter­na­tional Su­per­com­put­ing Con­fer­ence in Leipzig, Ger­many, the USTC team of six young stu­dents won sec­ond place in the Stu­dent Clus­ter Chal­lenge, a real-time in­ter­na­tional con­test held by the HPC Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil.

The team was awarded and rec­og­nized in front of thou­sands of HPC lu­mi­nar­ies on the main con­fer­ence key­note stage on June 24.

ISC is an an­nual con­fer­ence and is one of the world’s pre­mier events in high per­for­mance com­put­ing. The con­fer­ence con­nects ex­perts from aca­demic in­sti­tutes and en­gi­neers from en­ter­prises to share up­dated per­spec­tives and in­no­va­tive prod­ucts.

The SCC is an op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to demon­strate their clus­ter hard­ware and soft­ware ca­pa­bil­i­ties in a friendly and fun com­pe­ti­tion.

“This ex­cit­ing chal­lenge is an ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents around the world to show­case their knowl­edge and skill sets and to en­gage with lead­ing com­mer­cial ven­dors,” said Gi­lad Shainer, chair­man of the HPC Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil.

“The con­test is de­signed to in­tro­duce the next gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents to the in­ter­na­tional high-per­for­mance com­put­ing com­mu­nity.”

The USTC-Su­gon team was spon­sored by Chi­nese com­put­ing pow­er­house Dawn­ing In­for­ma­tion In­dus­try Co Ltd. The com­pany, knows as Su­gon for short, which means dawn­ing in Chi­nese, is a lead­ing high-tech com­pany sup­ported by the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, China’s top sci­en­tific re­search body.

The team made

its SCC de­but in Salt Lake City, in the United States, in Novem­ber 2012, when it won the sec­ond over­all prize and gained the high­est LINPACK score.

The sec­ond batch of team mem­bers was or­ga­nized in Oc­to­ber 2013, and in Fe­bru­ary this year the team en­tered into the for­mal train­ing stage.

Among the six stu­dents, He Song­tao, Li Guangpu, Chen Zhongxia, Hu Yun­bin and Ma Lu are ju­nior stu­dents from the School of Com­puter Science and Tech­nol­ogy of USTC. Zhu Shengjing, the youngest team mem­ber, is a sopho­more from the School of the Gifted Young, the first of its kind in China es­tab­lished in 1978 in order to give kids an ear­lier start at col­lege.

The stu­dents were un­der great pres­sure as they had to pass all cour­ses in the cur­ricu­lum as well as take part in high-in­ten­sity train­ing for the con­test.

For the chal­lenge, each team was re­quired to build a small clus­ter with a 3120-watt power limit and demon­strate the great­est per­for­mance across a se­ries of bench­marks, in­clud­ing the renowned LINPACK and ap­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing Quan­tum ESPRESSO, Open FOAM and GAD­GET.

To run the ap­pli­ca­tions smoothly, team mem­bers needed pre­cise knowl­edge of all the ap­pli­ca­tions to de­sign and build the most suit­able su­per com­puter.

“The read­ing code part was not so hard for us, while un­der­stand­ing the phys­i­cal and math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els in these ap­pli­ca­tions ap­pear to be the real chal­lenge,” said Zhu Shengjing.

Dur­ing the train­ing stage be­fore the con­test, ex­perts from USTC and CAS helped the stu­dents un­der­stand the mech­a­nisms of the ap­pli­ca­tions.

“These ap­pli­ca­tions would be much harder to un­der­stand with­out the physics and chem­i­cal knowl­edge that I stud­ied in my fresh­man year,” said Zhu, who also at­trib­uted their suc­cess to the cour­ses at the School of Com­puter Science and Tech­nol­ogy.

“The cour­ses not only em­pha­size the abil­ity to code, but also the abil­ity to con­nect the com­puter per­for­mance to hard­ware.”

The stu­dents left peo­ple at the con­test deep im­pres­sions with their ex­cel­lent per­for­mance. Li Guangpu was a very good ex­am­ple.

Li sub­mit­ted a re­sult af­ter a quick 11-sec­ond cal­cu­la­tion on the team’s own-de­signed su­per­com­puter dur­ing the 20-minute-long com­pe­ti­tion for Open FOAM, a widely used soft­ware in sci­en­tific re­search.

The speed shocked the judges and Li ex­plained he op­ti­mized the code to re­duce re­dun­dant com­pu­ta­tion.

“What a good ob­ser­va­tion!” re­marked one of the judges af­ter re-ex­am­in­ing the re­sult.

“The re­sult demon­strates China’s re­mark­able achieve­ments in su­per­com­put­ing ed­u­ca­tion and re­search,” said An af­ter the con­test. Qiu Zeng­wei from the USTC News Cen­ter also con­trib­uted to the story.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The USTC-Su­gon, a team con­sist­ing of six stu­dents and a coach, won the sec­ond prize at the 2014 Stu­dent Clus­ter Chal­lenge dur­ing the 29th In­ter­na­tional Su­per­com­put­ing Con­fer­ence in Leipzig, Ger­many.

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