SC07 Cluster Challenge - introduction

by Brent Gorda


The SuperComputing 2007 (SC07) Cluster Challenge invites teams of students to Reno mid-November to compete in a demonstration of talent, technology and entry-level supercomputing. The activity seeks to highlight the gains in hardware performance, ease of use of clusters and the power and availability of simulation software. A half-rack (a full rack is about the size of a household refrigerator) of modern day servers, or “pizza boxes” is competitive with the number one system on the top500 from only 10 years ago!

The Cluster Challenge will be held in Reno the week of November 10-16, 2007 as part of the annual Super Computing conference. Each of the six international teams of undergraduates have designed their commodity cluster and are supported by their chosen vendor partner. Competition rules are simple: teams may use a peak of 26 amps on a 30 amp circuit. They will use their system to run the HPC Challenge benchmarks and three open source applications: POP, GAMESS, and POVRay.

The challenge starts Monday night during the gala opening where attendees attend to preview the exhibit hall and socialize with food and drink. At the start, teams will run the HPC Challenge benchmarks and post their results. Once they have done this, they will be given access to the data sets for the applications and will have the next 40+ straight hours to complete as much of this workload as they are able. At 4:00 pm on Wednesday, teams will be judged by a group of high performance computing experts lead by Jack Dongarra (founder of the Top500 website).

With the movement toward multi-core, it is clear that future performance gains will come from parallelism. The scientific community, with over 20 years of experience, has produced quality (and open) simulation software such as POP and GAMESS. Other software that might be thought of as not parallel, such as POVRay, can harness parallelism by running a copy on each processor.

We believe that computational simulation on this scale has attained a level of capability and accessibility wherein it is now a critical tool available (and soon to be necessary) to enhance the competitiveness of industry. By inviting undergraduates to design, build and then compete with these systems, we intend to demonstrate this. Through the selected applications we will show that interesting and useful simulations can be done on this modest amount of hardware.


Brent Gorda
2007-11-08 11:15:34
Day T-4 for the Cluster Challenge at SC07. The pre-conference goings-on here in Reno tempt me to joke about making sausage, but the Freeman company setting things up have obviously done this before.

Cluster Challenge racks have started to arrive, with Purdue being first on site. Speaking of Team Purdue, they put together an online comic for their challenge entries (SC07 has multiple challenges). You can see it here:


Benjamin Kudria
2007-11-10 12:49:50
I'm one of the Stony Brook Team's unofficial bloggers, you can find my coverage of the event on my site.
2008-06-14 06:38:26