by Munira Hussain

Last year, Dell welcomed and hosted eight promising students from South Africa that made HPC history. The group representing universities from across the Republic of South Africa became the first team from the African continent to compete at the International Supercomputing Conference. But they didn't stop there. Team South Africa went on to win the Student Cluster Competition at ISC13 against some formidable teams from around the world!

This year, a new team has earned the honor of defending South Africa's title at ISC14.  Four members of the winning team are joined by the "top" competitors from the "runner up" teams.

Like their colleagues last year, Team South Africa recently had an opportunity to visit Austin as guests of Dell. During their visit, the student team was able to visit the Dell Global Solutions Engineering (GSE) Lab where they engaged with the engineers to learn about HPC Solutions. They utilized their time to gain a competitive edge on various HPC technologies and hence fine tune their architectural design and implementation. The team gained exposure and guidance on handling cluster challenges that would help overcome some of the competition restraints and optimize the performance.  Some of the areas of concentration that the group of students worked with during their visit included:

  • Discussed deployment methodologies and feature sets of software solution stacks, imaging and provisioning, and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of using diskless versus boot of local disk.
  • Configured and set up a cluster "from scratch" and ran LINPACK to gather power measurements, using Idrac and a power meter strip.
  • Discussed  performance data on micro benchmarks and various CFD, manufacturing, life science and weather simulation application characteristics. Also gathered best practices on BIOS tuning parameters, compilation and tuning parameters, and power consumption options.
  • Learned about GPU and Accelerator studies on supported configuration, performance impact and power consumption options, and received recommendations for configuring power caps on GPUs to attain respective Gflops.
  • Gained a better understanding  of bottlenecks in I/O performance in respect to storage as well as network and parallel file system configurations in HPC clusters. They were provided with performance optimization and best practices for tuning I/O on various interconnects for storage solutions.
  • Spent time with the System Performance Analysis team to gain a better understanding of benchmarking and tuning on a single server.


The students also visited the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) where they had the chance to learn and see the Top 500 Dell HPC Stampede Cluster.  You can read more about their visit to TACC here.

It was a busy trip for these young people, and an honor to host them. We all wish this latest team from South Africa the very best of luck at ISC14 and throughout what promises to be successful careers!