21 June 2013
First-time entrant South Africa stunned heavyweights China and the USA at an international student supercomputing competition in Germany on Wednesday, scooping overall top honours with the highest scores across the board.
The HPCAC-ISC Student Cluster Challenge, hosted by the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC), features small teams that compete to demonstrate the incredible capabilities of state-of-the-art high-performance cluster hardware and software.
In a real-time challenge, teams of six undergraduate or high school students build small clusters of their own design on the ISC exhibit floor, racing to demonstrate the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications.
Wednesday’s final, at the 2013 International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, was contested by eight teams: two each from the US and China, and one each from the UK, Germany, Costa Rica and South Africa.
The South African team scooped overall top honours, “achieving the highest aggregate points total for all the benchmarks included in the competition (Linpack and the chosen applications) and acing the interview with the judges”, the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) said in a statement on Thursday.
“South Africa’s resounding success was unsuspected, dropping a few jaws in the hall since the country was a first-time entrant.”
The CHPC added that the experience afforded by the competition would help South Africa to “grow a generation of high-performance expertise for national economic development and for large projects such as the Square Kilometre Array”.
The CHPC, an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, is implemented by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) Meraka Institute.
Last year, a major upgrade to the CHPC’s Tsessebe Sun Constellation System saw South Africa reclaim its place in the top 500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers.
The CHPC’s high performance computing platforms are used to solve problems in fields such as materials science, climatology, chemistry and biomedicine, and are available to researchers across the country through the 10 gigabit-per-second South African National Research Network.