South Africa Students Visit Dell’s Round Rock Campus for HPC Training

The fifth annual Student Cluster Competition is coming up at this year’s International Supercomputing Conference, and Team South Africa will once again be competing for a winning title.

Co-sponsored by the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and Dell, the group of six bright young students and two reserves will head to Germany in June of this year to take part in the competition, featuring 12 teams from all over the world. Student teams will compete over a three-day period to build a small cluster computer of their own design and run a series of HPC benchmarks and applications.

As part of their training, Team South Africa spent a week at Dell’s Round Rock campus to meet with HPC experts, check out our next-generation HPC and thermal labs, become familiar with the cluster systems and receive hands-on tutorials and feedback sessions.

The team, led by CHPC’s David MacLeod, is made up of the following students:

  • Avraham Bank, University of the Witwatersrand Math Applied Math and Computer Science
  • Craig Bester, University of the Witwatersrand Computer Science
  • Andries Bingani, University of the Witwatersrand Computer Science
  • Sabeehah Ismail, University of the Witwatersrand Computer Science
  • Leanne Johnson, Stellenbosch University Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Ashley Naudé, Stellenbosch University Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Bakhekile Ndlovu, University of the Witwatersrand Electrical Engineering (reserve)
  • Kayla-Jade Butkow, University of the Witwatersrand Biomedical Engineering (reserve)

David is responsible for introducing the cluster competition to South Africa students, putting together the first official team in 2011 and leading all subsequent teams. David has an impressive record, with two first place teams and one second place team. His goal, however, is even bigger than clenching the 2016 title at ISC this year. David wants to drive awareness of HPC as a transformative technology in South Africa, and draw in more students to the field.

During their time at Dell, the team of students sat down with Jim Ganthier, Dell’s Head of HPC, and Ed Turkel, Dell’s HPC Strategist, to learn more about pursuing a career in HPC.

Both Jim and Ed chronicled how far the HPC industry has come in such a short amount of time, regaling the students with stories of the first monolithic systems they worked on before the advent of x86 servers and clusters. The days of HPC being applied solely to academia and large research institutions are dwindling, thanks to the explosion of data all around us. Dell is leading the charge to bring HPC to mainstream audiences, and the students of today will help make that vision a reality.

During the session with Jim and Ed, the South Africa students asked about medical applications of HPC, how NASA would employ the technology and what a career in electrical engineering would look like with relation to HPC. The opportunities for HPC today are massive, spanning areas such as genomics, automotive racing, manufacturing, oil & gas, financial services, medical archiving, aeronautical design, social media and much, much more. The democratization of HPC, which is currently underway, will change the way business leaders look at the technology, helping to analyze more data and solve bigger problems, and ultimately change our world.

We are honored to support this brilliant group of students, and will be rooting for you in June. Go Team South Africa go!

About the Author: Perrin Cox