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SC14 Student Cluster Competition

SC14 will again feature the Student Cluster Competition as an opportunity to showcase student expertise in a friendly yet spirited competition. Held as part of HPC Interconnections, the Student Cluster Competition is designed to introduce the next generation of students to the high-performance computing community. Over the last couple of years, the competition has drawn teams from around the world, including Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Russia and Taiwan.

In this real-time, non-stop, 48-hour challenge, teams of undergraduate and/or high school students assemble a small cluster on the SC14 exhibit floor and race to demonstrate the greatest sustained performance across a series of applications. In the competition, teams of six (6) students partner with vendors to design and build a cutting-edge cluster from commercially available components that does not exceed a 3120-watt power limit (26-amp at 120-volt), and work with application experts to tune and run the competition codes. Both “off-the-shelf” and “off-the-wall” solutions are encouraged.

Please note that this webpage is updated frequently, and most recently on 06/11/2014. Please check back for any changes to the competition, and also make sure to subscribe to the Google Group at https://groups.google.com/d/forum/student-cluster-competition14 for the most up-to-date information.

Commodity Track
At SC13 we introduced the Commodity Cluster track to the Student Cluster Competition, and we were planning on holding this track again at SC14. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding we will not be able to hold the Commodity Track this year, and we could not keep that track waiting to see if more funding would come out of the woodwork. We hope to run it again for SC15.

All teams who applied to Commodity Track are strongly encouraged to apply for the Student Volunteers, Broader Engagement, or Experiencing HPC for Undergraduates programs at SC14, and would be honored to recommend you directly to the chairs of these programs. Please see http://sc14.supercomputing.org/important-dates -- June 15th is the deadline to apply for these programs.

Standard Track
We are excited to announce that we will be holding the Standard Track of the competition at SC14 and have invited 10 teams to compete this year including:

  • The University of Texas – Austin
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • iVEC – Australia
  • Friedrich-Alexander-Universität – Germany
  • National Tsing Hua University – Taiwan
  • University of Tennessee – Knoxville
  • Purdue University /EAFIT - Columbia
  • Oklahoma University
  • The University of Science and Technology – China
  • National University of Singapore
  • Huazhong University of Science and Technology – China
  • Massachusetts Green Team

Thank you to our sponsors!

We would like to thank our sponsors for their financial support of the competition!

  • Bank of America
  • Chevron
  • Data Direct Networks
  • Geist Global
  • MathWorks
  • Procter &Gamble
  • Schlumberger

Questions and Answers
Please submit questions about rules or applications to the Student Cluster Competition question board at: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/student-cluster-competition14

Application
Applications to participate in the SC14 Student Cluster Competition are no longer being accepted.

• If teams have questions about proposals or rules that they do not wish to be viewed publically in the Q&A forum, please email: student-cluster-competition@info.supercomputing.org

• The deadline for final architecture proposals from accepted teams is September 29, 2014.

Competition Details
Prior to the competition, a team works with its advisor and vendor partners to design and build a cutting-edge, commercially available small cluster constrained by the 3120-watt (26-amp) power limit. Teams must also learn the three open-source competition applications, which are listed below in the “Application Details” section. Teams are encouraged to enlist the help of domain specialists to assist with building, tuning, and understanding how the applications work. A fourth mystery application will be revealed on Monday night when the competition officially kicks off.

During SC14 in New Orleans, teams will assemble, test, and tune their machines and run the HPCC benchmarks until the starting bell rings on Monday night at the Exhibit Opening Gala, when they will be given the competition data sets for all four applications. In full view of conference attendees, teams will execute the prescribed workload while showing progress and science visualization output on large high-resolution displays in their areas. Teams race to correctly complete the greatest number of application runs during the competition period until the close of the exhibit floor on Wednesday evening.

The showcase portion of the competition allows teams to show off what they’ve learned and what they can do with their equipment. Veteran HPC experts will be present to judge the visualizations and to interview each team on their cluster and application knowledge.

The winning team will be determined based on a combined score for workload completed, benchmark performance, conference attendance, and interviews. Recognition will be given for the highest LINPACK performance. The winning teams will be recognized at the SC14 Awards Ceremony luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 20.

Teams
Competition teams comprise six (6) student members and an advisor.

Student members must be enrolled at an educational institution, but MUST NOT have been granted an undergraduate degree (as of the start of the contest). High school students are also eligible and encouraged to participate, either as team members on a college team or as members of a team made up entirely of high school students. Teams may be composed of members from multiple educational institutions, including teams with combined high school and college members.

The required advisor must be an employee affiliated with a team’s educational institution. The advisor is encouraged to mentor the students leading up to the competition. Teams are encouraged to work with more individuals from their institutions other than just their advisor, but only the advisor will receive sponsorship from the competition. During the competition, the advisor is responsible for the team at all times and must be available 24 hours a day. While the advisor is not allowed to provide technical assistance during the competition, he/she is encouraged to run for fuel for their team and cheer during the long nights.

Teams are responsible for a portion of the costs associated with participation. Teams must provide their cluster hardware, shipping costs, team transportation (airfare and/or ground transportation) to SC14 and some meal costs. The Student Cluster Competition Committee encourages teams to get as much financial support as possible from vendors, but the committee has funds to help cover registration, hotel, and exhibition costs; some food will be provided as part of SC14 breaks or social events. Teams are required to have sponsors (see next section) to help offset the required costs.

Team members must agree to a number of safety rules for the event. These rules are intended to prevent injury to students and to prevent damage to the facility and the equipment. Among a number of safety rules, each contestant will be limited to a maximum of 12 hours per day in the contest area. A safe competition makes a fun competition!

Teams will be required to attend other aspects of the convention beyond the Student Cluster Competition. Further details will be provided before the competition.       

Sponsors
We are always looking for additional sponsors. As a team sponsor, you will not only support and inspire the next-generation of HPC experts but also will benefit from added exhibit floor exposure and having a group of enthusiastic students describing your technology.

If you are a team in search of a sponsor or a sponsor in search of a team, please contact us immediately at student-cluster-competition@info.supercomputing.org to allow us ample time to facilitate a suitable match. Team partnerships must be solidified by the final architecture proposal deadline.

Teams are responsible for obtaining their cluster hardware and transporting it to the Convention Center. We encourage teams to look at sponsorship from hardware and software vendors, supercomputing centers and national labs, and other businesses. Teams must partner with one or more sponsors to provide cluster hardware for the duration of the competition. Sponsors are encouraged to provide additional financial support, including hotel, booth decoration (signage, swag and collateral material), per diem, and so on. This year teams must fund their own air/ground transportation to New Orleans for the competition. More assistance from sponsors allows us to invite more teams to compete.

In all cases, teams should be sure to have their cluster hardware for practice and preparation, ideally for one month or more prior to the competition. Sponsors should provide the necessary technical assistance to ensure that the proposed configuration remains under the power budget for the competition. They are strongly encouraged to provide training and interact closely with their teams in designing the computational systems.

Hardware
Booths will be 10 feet x 10 feet and back to a solid wall or curtain. Teams must fit into this space for all activities and must have the display visible to the viewing public. 

The computational hardware (processors, switch, storage, etc.) must fit into an enclosure no larger than a single 42U rack, which must be provided by the team. Since thermal issues may be a factor, teams should exhaust hot air vertically from their systems.

The hardware must be commercially available at the time of competition start (Monday morning) and teams must display, for public view, a complete list of hardware and software used in the system.

With the exception of spare components, no changes to the physical configuration are permitted after the start of the competition. Use of sleep states (no power off and no hibernation) is permitted as long as when all systems in the rack are powered on into their lowest running OS (non-sleep) state, they do not exceed the power limitation. Teams are therefore not permitted to bring more equipment than could fit into the power limitation while all equipment is powered on with a running OS. Other systems (such as laptops and monitors) may be powered from separate power sources provided by the Conference.

A 42” LCD display will be provided that should be used to continually showcase application progress through the visualization output from the applications and other dynamic content the team chooses. The contest area is in the public area of the Conference and the intention is to attract visitors to the contest activities.

A network drop will be provided for outgoing connections only. Teams will NOT be permitted to access their clusters from outside the local network. Wireless for laptops will be available throughout the convention center via SCinet. Computational hardware may be connected via wired connections only – wireless access is not permitted.

All components associated with the system, and access to it, must be powered through the 120-volt range, 20-amp circuits provided by the Conference:

Two circuits, each with a soft limit of 1560-watt, will be provided. Power from each circuit will be provided via a Geist RCXRN102-102D20TL5-D PDU. Teams should tune their equipment never to exceed the 1560-watt limit on each of the two PDUs. Teams should be prepared to tune their hardware’s power consumption based on the power reported by the PDUs’ power monitor, which teams will be able to read from the PDUs’ LED readouts as well as over Ethernet via SNMP.

Electronic alarms will be sent if the power draw on either PDU exceeds the 1560-watt soft limit, and point penalties will be assessed for each alarm and for not responding appropriately to the issue. Random momentary blips over the 1560-watt limit, due to supply voltage variations are not penalized. Any time a team registers over 1560-watt for 1 minute is subject to penalty. Teams are subject to penalization or disqualification if they ever register 1800-watt (15-amp at 120-volt) or more for any duration. Teams should never approach the 20-amp physical limit of the PDU circuit, since convention center power is also breakered at 20 amps and may blow before the PDU, causing delays for the team as well as aggravation and expense for the competition organizers.

System Software
Teams may choose any operating system and software stack that will run the challenges and display software. Teams may pre-load and test the applications and other software. Teams may study and tune the open-source benchmarks and applications for their platforms (within the rules, of course). We encourage teams to use schedulers to run their clusters autonomously while they enjoy other aspects of the conference.      

Application Details
The applications are described below.

  • ADCIRC

http://adcirc.org/

ADCIRC (ADvanced CIRCulation model) is a highly developed system of computer programs for solving time dependent, free surface circulation and transport problems in two and three dimensions. These programs utilize the finite element method in space allowing the use of highly flexible, unstructured grids. ADCIRC can be run using either a Cartesian or a spherical coordinate system.

ADCIRC has been optimized by unrolling loops for enhanced performance on multiple computer architectures. ADCIRC includes MPI library calls to allow it to operate at high efficiency on parallel computer architectures. Typical ADCIRC applications have included: prediction of storm surge and flooding, modeling tides and wind driven circulation, larval transport studies near shore, marine operations, dredging feasibility and material disposal studies.

  • NAMD

http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/namd/

NAMD (Not (just) Another Molecular Dynamics program), recipient of a 2002 Gordon Bell Award and a 2012 Sidney Fernbach Award, is a parallel molecular dynamics code designed for high-performance simulation of large biomolecular systems. NAMD scales to hundreds of cores for typical simulations and beyond 200,000 cores for the largest simulations. It can also be used on low-cost commodity clusters, individual desktop and laptop computers. NAMD is distributed free of charge with source code, and works with AMBER and CHARMM potential functions, parameters, and file formats.

NAMD uses the classical molecular dynamics force field, equations of motion, and integration methods along with the efficient electrostatics evaluation algorithms employed and temperature and pressure controls used. Features for steering the simulation across barriers and for calculating both alchemical and conformational free-energy differences are present.

  • MATLAB

http://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab/

MATLAB and Simulink are tools of inspiration and innovation used at more than 5000 universities worldwide to accelerate the pace of learning, teaching and research in engineering and science. In addition, because they are widely used for research and development throughout industry, MATLAB and Simulink also help prepare students for their future careers.

MATLAB and Simulink users are advancing engineering in vital areas using techniques like Model-Based Design to change how systems as diverse as automobiles, cell phones, robots, washing machines, wind turbines and hearing implants are developed. Mathematical models, formerly the province of research, are now used to analyze, design, implement and test these increasingly complex systems, addressing the competitive need to innovate while reducing development costs and time-to-market. In education, these same approaches are providing students with a stronger systems perspective while enabling more engaging hands-on or project-based learning, providing them with the technical skills to seamlessly transition from academia to industry.

  • Mystery Application

    The information for this application will be revealed at the competition.

Architecture Proposals

As a team sponsor, you will not only support and inspire the next-generation of HPC experts but also will benefit from added exhibit floor exposure and having a group of enthusiastic students describing your technology.

If you are a team in search of a sponsor or a sponsor in search of a team, please contact us immediately at student-cluster-competition@info.supercomputing.org to allow us ample time to facilitate a suitable match. Team partnerships must be solidified by the final architecture proposal deadline.

Teams are responsible for obtaining their cluster hardware and transporting it to the Convention Center. We encourage teams to look at sponsorship from hardware and software vendors, supercomputing centers and national labs, and other businesses. Teams in the Standard Track must partner with one or more sponsors to provide cluster hardware for the duration of the competition. Teams in the Commodity Track are encouraged to find vendor or local sponsors to provide the hardware for the duration of the competition or cover its cost.  For both tracks, sponsors are encouraged to provide additional financial support, including hotel, booth decoration (signage, swag and collateral material), per diem, and so on. This year teams must fund their own air/ground transportation to New Orleans for the competition. More assistance from sponsors allows us to invite more teams to compete.

In all cases, teams should be sure to have their cluster hardware for practice and preparation, ideally for one month or more prior to the competition. Sponsors should provide the necessary technical assistance to ensure that the proposed configuration remains under the power budget for the competition. They are strongly encouraged to provide training and interact closely with their teams in designing the computational systems.

Hardware

Booths will be 10 feet x 10 feet and back to a solid wall or curtain. Teams must fit into this space for all activities and must have the display visible to the viewing public.

The computational hardware (processors, switch, storage, etc.) must fit into an enclosure no larger than a single 42U rack, which must be provided by the team. Since thermal issues may be a factor, teams should exhaust hot air vertically from their systems.

The hardware must be commercially available at the time of competition start (Monday morning) and teams must display, for public view, a complete list of hardware and software used in the system. Commodity Track displays must include vendor sources and retail pricing information that will be reviewed and verified by the committee. Total cost of a commodity track team’s entire cluster must not exceed $2500 USD retail pricing, excluding any spare equipment brought along in case of emergencies, regardless of whether components are being purchased, donated, or loaned.

With the exception of spare components, no changes to the physical configuration are permitted after the start of the competition. Use of sleep states (no power off and no hibernation) is permitted as long as when all systems in the rack are powered on into their lowest running OS (non-sleep) state, they do not exceed the power limitation. Teams are therefore not permitted to bring more equipment than could fit into the power limitation while all equipment is powered on with a running OS. Other systems (such as laptops and monitors) may be powered from separate power sources provided by the Conference.

Each team should bring along a projector or other large visual display upon which they are to continually showcase their progress through display of the visualization output from the applications and other dynamic content the team chooses. The contest area is in the public area of the Conference and the intention is to attract visitors to the contest activities.

A network drop will be provided for outgoing connections only. Teams will NOT be permitted to access their clusters from outside the local network. Wireless for laptops will be available throughout the convention center via SCinet. Computational hardware may be connected via wired connections only – wireless access is not permitted.

All components associated with the system, and access to it, must be powered through the 120-volt range, 20-amp circuits provided by the Conference:

For Standard Track, two circuits, each with a soft limit of 13-amps, will be provided. Power from each circuit will be provided via an APC 7801 metered power distribution unit (PDU). Standard Track teams should tune their equipment never to exceed the 13-amp limit on each of the two PDUs. Standard Track teams should be prepared to tune their hardware’s power consumption based on the amperage reported by the PDUs’ amperage monitor, which teams will be able to read from the PDUs’ LED readouts as well as over Ethernet via SNMP.

Electronic alarms will be sent if the power draw on either PDU exceeds the 13-amp soft limit, and point penalties will be assessed for each alarm and for not responding appropriately to the issue. Random momentary blips over the 13-amp limit, due to supply voltage variations are not penalized. Any time a Standard Track team registers over 13.00-amps for 1 minute is subject to penalty. Teams are subject to penalization or disqualification if they ever register 15-amps or more for any duration. Teams should never approach the 20-amp physical limit of the PDU circuit, since convention center power is also breakered at 20 amps and may blow before the PDU, causing delays for the team as well as aggravation and expense for the competition organizers.

For Commodity Track, one circuit will be provided. The Commodity Track will not receive metered PDUs, but will have power strips that will trip if the usage exceeds 15 amps. Commodity Track teams should tune their systems to ensure that they will never exceed the 15-amp limit or else all power to their system will be interrupted.

System Software

Teams may choose any operating system and software stack that will run the challenges and display software. Teams may pre-load and test the applications and other software. Teams may study and tune the open-source benchmarks and applications for their platforms (within the rules, of course). We encourage teams to use schedulers to run their clusters autonomously while they enjoy other aspects of the conference.       

Application Details

As part of the SC14 Student Cluster Challenge, each team will be required to run a set of scientific applications. The applications are described below.

  • ADCIRC

http://adcirc.org/

ADCIRC (ADvanced CIRCulation model) is a highly developed system of computer programs for solving time dependent, free surface circulation and transport problems in two and three dimensions. These programs utilize the finite element method in space allowing the use of highly flexible, unstructured grids. ADCIRC can be run using either a Cartesian or a spherical coordinate system.

ADCIRC has been optimized by unrolling loops for enhanced performance on multiple computer architectures. ADCIRC includes MPI library calls to allow it to operate at high efficiency on parallel computer architectures. Typical ADCIRC applications have included: prediction of storm surge and flooding, modeling tides and wind driven circulation, larval transport studies near shore, marine operations, dredging feasibility and material disposal studies.

  • NAMD

http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/namd/

NAMD (Not (just) Another Molecular Dynamics program), recipient of a 2002 Gordon Bell Award and a 2012 Sidney Fernbach Award, is a parallel molecular dynamics code designed for high-performance simulation of large biomolecular systems. NAMD scales to hundreds of cores for typical simulations and beyond 200,000 cores for the largest simulations. It can also be used on low-cost commodity clusters, individual desktop and laptop computers. NAMD is distributed free of charge with source code, and works with AMBER and CHARMM potential functions, parameters, and file formats.

NAMD uses the classical molecular dynamics force field, equations of motion, and integration methods along with the efficient electrostatics evaluation algorithms employed and temperature and pressure controls used. Features for steering the simulation across barriers and for calculating both alchemical and conformational free-energy differences are present.

  • MATLAB

http://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab/

MATLAB and Simulink are tools of inspiration and innovation used at more than 5000 universities worldwide to accelerate the pace of learning, teaching and research in engineering and science. In addition, because they are widely used for research and development throughout industry, MATLAB and Simulink also help prepare students for their future careers.

MATLAB and Simulink users are advancing engineering in vital areas using techniques like Model-Based Design to change how systems as diverse as automobiles, cell phones, robots, washing machines, wind turbines and hearing implants are developed. Mathematical models, formerly the province of research, are now used to analyze, design, implement and test these increasingly complex systems, addressing the competitive need to innovate while reducing development costs and time-to-market. In education, these same approaches are providing students with a stronger systems perspective while enabling more engaging hands-on or project-based learning, providing them with the technical skills to seamlessly transition from academia to industry.

  • Mystery Application

    The information for this application will be revealed at the competition.

Architecture Proposals

Each accepted team must submit a final architecture proposal by September 29, 2014. Failure to submit a final architecture proposal will result in automatic disqualification. The final architecture should be closely determined with sponsors, taking into consideration the competition applications. Hardware and software combinations should be generally applicable to any computational science domain. While novel system configurations are encouraged, systems designed to target a single application or benchmark will generally not be favorably considered. The proposal should contain detailed information about both the hardware being used and the software stack that will be used to participate in the challenge. The detail should be sufficient for the judging panel to determine if all the applications will easily port to and run on the computational infrastructure being proposed.