Holy petaFLOPS! South Africa wins supercomputing crown again

South Africa has won the International Student Cluster (ISC) competition, a supercomputing contest held in Leipzig, Germany, for the second year in a row.

Last year (2013) team SA scored a major upset at ISC, and was one of only two teams to have completed every task.

A team selection policy that also sets South Africa apart is that it has not sent the same students to Leipzig two years in a row.

The CSIR’s Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) holds a national competition, where university students may enter to show their supercomputing mettle.

Based on their performance at this competition, students are selected for the CHPC team which is entered into the High Performance Computing Advisory Council ISC.

The Team

During 2013 a team of students from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) won the CHPC competition. They make up the bulk of the CHPC team:

  • Eugene de Beste;
  • Nicole Thomas;
  • Saeed Natha; and
  • Warren Jacobus.

Other members of the team area:

  • Pieter Malan, Stellenbosch University, was part of the team that achieved the best HPL score during the CSIR’s competition; and
  • Ellen Nxala, University of Fort Hare, was part of the team that received the CSIR’s prize for perseverance.

As reserves, the CHPC fielded the following students:

  • Kevin Beyers, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, was part of the team that received the CHPC’s prize for best high throughput design; and
  • Hardus Bodenstein, North-West University, was part of the team that received the CHPC prize for best theoretical design.

These students then had the opportunity to visit Dell’s headquarters and the Texas Advanced Computing Centre at the University of Texas in Austin.

There the team received a tour of the facilities and access to experts who could answer their questions about various aspects of supercomputing.

The Competition

To win ISC, students have to build a computer cluster, or supercomputer, that stays within a certain cash and power budget.

Within those constraints they must achieve the highest aggregate score across a suite of benchmarks, and perform well in an interview with ISC judges.

Congratulations to the CHPC’s team on their performance at ISC 2014. You’ve done South Africa proud.

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Photo by Sabine Dedering

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Holy petaFLOPS! South Africa wins supercomputing crown again