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Singapore universities finally back in supercomputing prowess


By Nebojsa Novakovic

The Asia Supercomputing 2014 conference held in Guangzhou from Tuesday to Friday last week, had the world’s largest student supercomputing challenge held to date, with some 82 teams from the whole world competing in everything from building and tuning HPC clusters with mixed CPU and GPU configurations, to installing and optimising various codes, and competing on both installation time, power consumption and benchmark performance. Held at the Sun Yat Sen University, where the Guangzhou Supercomputer Center houses Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer, the competition and associated conference attracted quite a few global speakers and luminaries in the field.

Usually, Singaporean teams don’t do to well on these, as neither hardware nor software sides of the high performance computing experience are strong here aside of A*STAR’s institutes. However, under the guidance of A*STAR A*CRC, the same guys who created the concept for Singapore’s upcoming National Supercomputing Research Centre (NSRC), things changed for way better this year.

Singapore fielded two student teams this time, one from National University of Singapore  and another from Nanyang Technological University. While the NUS team managed to reach respectable 19th place out of 82, it wasn’t enough to qualify for the finals. However, NTU team reached first place, pole position, in the qualification round for the Top 16 finals. Then, even though they had to compete against larger univesities here, including the Changsha NUDT where Tianhe-2 was created, the NTU team managed to reach the No.2, runner up, position, in the finals – Shanghai Jiaotong University was the winner.

As the runner up, NTU team won an $8,000 award. But, this cash win pales in importance to the, hopefully, massive importance boost of supercomputing in Singapore, as the new generation of young hardware and software wizards, gains in confidence to compete on the global scale. Maybe, now, Singapore could justify at least a 10++ PFLOP “proper” supercomputing hub for the ASEAN groupling?

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