University of Washington Student Supercomputing

Wednesday, 11, December 2019 Rich Bowen interview No Comments

At the recent Supercomputing conference in Denver, I spoke with the University of Washington Boundless DAWG student supercomputing team.

(You can listen to the full interview at

Rich: I'm here with the team from the University of Washington at the Student Cluster Competition, at SC19. I was wondering if you could tell me about your experience. Was this a positive experience overall?

Univ Washington: Yeah, it was a super positive experience. We got to travel. We got to meet all kinds of new people - industry professionals - and we got to go out of our comfort zone. None of us had any HPC experience at all except for Andrei, who's our senior - our leader on the team, our spiritual leader. So we learned a lot in this experience. And we struggled. But we came through it as a team. And we expect that to show in the results.

R: What were some of the struggles?

UW: Well, we came without a rack. And we learned that we could be disqualified if we did not have our cluster in the rack by Monday at 9:30. So our spiritual leader, Andrei, had to find a rack on Craig's List, or Facebook Marketplace, and then drive to Boulder to get the rack for $100. But everything turned out to be alright, and we have our rack, and we're not disqualified, yet. So far.

R: That's amazing.

R: For those of you who didn't have any HPC experience going into this, what convinced you to join a venture like this?

UW: First of all, supercomputers are pretty awesome. So I wanted to learn a lot more about it. Also this seems like a pretty cool competition experience. There's not that many competitions that take place for most of a week. And also there's not that many competitions that allow underclassmen to be involved in supercomputing, let alone on the world stage.

R: Who were your primary sponsors for this?

UW: The primary sponsor was AWS. And we had secondary sponsors Melanox, Intel, Invidia, who provided Tesla V100s. And Melanox provided Infiniband to connect our nodes together. Intel and AWS teamed up to give us money to cover the rest of the hardware.

R: Why did you choose CentOS for your base operating system?

UW: I think one of the primary reasons we ended up going with CentOS is, looking at last year, virtually every team used CentOS in the competition. We knew right away that there was a reason for that, and part of that reason was very likely due to stability, compatibility, and after figuring out what some of the applications were, we also found out that some of the applications were only guaranteed to work with CentOS. So apparently they tested on only CentOS. Might as well not make it harder on ourselves by trying to use something different.

R: Thank you all for your time. Good luck when the results come out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *