South Africa wins international supercomputing competition

A team of six South African undergraduate students has won first prize at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, Germany.

The competition, which ran from 16 to 19 June 2019, challenged teams to design, build, and run the best-performing computer cluster.

The South African team consisted of four University of Cape Town students and two University of the Witwatersrand students.

The team members were Stephan Schröder, Dillon Heald, Jehan Singh, Clara Stassen, Anita de Mello Koch and Kaamilah Dessai.

The competition was supervised by David Macleod and Matthew Cawood of the CSIR’s Centre for High-Performance Computing (CHPC).

The South African team took on competitors from the United Kingdom, United States of America, China, Taiwan, Spain, Switzerland, Estonia, and Singapore.

South Africa won first place with the highest overall score for all the benchmarks they were given.

This is the fourth time South Africa has won the competition following successes in 2013, 2014, and 2016.

How the competition works

The competition requires participants to build small high-performance computing clusters out of hardware provided by the CPHC.

The participants are then given applications to optimise and run on their cluster, demonstrating the performance of their design.

Each team is assigned a budget and a parts list from one of the CHPC’s industry partners which they must use to design their computer cluster.

Once the cluster’s design is finalised, the hardware specification is submitted to the CHPC’s partners for manufacturing.

After the hardware is delivered, and teams must construct their cluster, install the software stack, and perform benchmarks.

The teams are judged on a combination of the performance of the applications and the design of the cluster.

The total value of the South African team’s computing cluster was R6 million, which was sponsored by Dell EMC, Intel, Nvidia, and Mellanox.

Now read: SA students compete to build fastest supercomputer

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South Africa wins international supercomputing competition