People in most US states would be ecstatic (or, perhaps, totally indifferent) to hear that one of their universities made it to the 2012 Student Cluster Competition (SCC) in Salt Lake City, but the state of Texas wanted more. So they’re sending two teams to the Great Salt Lake Siege. Details on competition rules, applications, and prizes are here and here. (Since there aren’t any prizes, I didn’t have to write a story about them, thus no link.) Go ahead and read those articles; I’ll pause here until you catch up…
With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the Texas combatants:
Team Longhorn, which competed at SC10 in New Orleans and SC11 in Seattle, represents the University of Texas at Austin. At SC10 they were one of only three teams to break the teraflop barrier, grabbing the top LINPACK award and a piece of student clustering history. They cemented their presence in the annals of SCC history in 2011 when they brought the first liquid immersion-cooled cluster to the Battle in Seattle. They did well in both competitions, and had the highest non-hybrid scores in 2011, but haven’t taken the Overall Winner crown (there isn’t a real crown).
This year, the Longhorns are bringing back a mixed team of computer science, math, physics, and electrical engineering students. Half of the team members have competed in previous SC events. I don’t think there has been any coaching staff turnover – or at least I haven’t seen reports of any changes on ESPN, Fox Sports, or the other usual outlets.
As in years past, Team Longhorn is sponsored by hometown computer giant Dell and heavily supported by the supercomputer gurus at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). It’ll be interesting to see what Team Longhorn has up their sleeves for Salt Lake City. Will they bring their deep-fried nodes? Their mineral oil immersive cooling was quite a bit of hassle, but it did pay off in allowing them to run more nodes and stay within the power envelope. I also wonder if they’ll go down the hybrid HPC route and add GPUs or other accelerators to their configuration this year. I know that they considered them for both New Orleans in 2010 and Seattle in 2011 but just didn’t see it as a winning approach. Have they changed their minds for 2012?
Team Red Raider hails from Texas Tech University located in beautiful Lubbock, Texas. From what I can tell, this is the first time Texas Tech has fielded a student cluster team, unless they’ve been competing incognito in the shady (and often illegal) underground HPC clustering tournaments. (They’re just like Fight Club, but with much more math. Like Fight Club, the first rule of seedy underground HPC clustering tournaments is “You don’t talk about underground HPC clustering tournaments.”)
In their application (which was written in late spring), Tech talks about a wide range of technologies they might (or might not) use in their cluster. They’re looking at all of the major processor and accelerator combinations. They’ve secured sponsorship from Dell and have been receiving significant assistance and mentoring from the High Performance Computing Center at Texas Tech. I also noticed in their application that they made a point of explicitly thanking all of the institutions and several individuals who have helped them put together their effort – it was a nice touch that says something (something good) about the kids on the team.
The Red Raiders look like the usual group of computer science and engineering undergrads, with a chemistry/math major thrown in for good measure. Outwardly, that’s typical stuff. However, they have some special expertise on their team that could give them a leg up on the competition. If what they’re saying in their application pans out, they’ll be sporting a cluster configuration that will be, well, highly interesting. And, yes, I’m being intentionally vague.