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EXCLUSIVE: Second APAC HPC-AI Competition launched during Supercomputing Asia 2019

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a pillar of today’s technological world, offering solutions that enable better and more accurate decisions based on the massive amounts of data being collected.

AI encompasses a wide range of trends and use cases that apply to nearly every industry today, ranging from security, finance, and image and voice recognition, to self-driving cars and smart cities.

High Performance Computing (HPC) enables universities, research laboratories and commercial vendors to develop the products and services of tomorrow.

This includes having safer cars and airplanes, to accurate weather and storm prediction, to finding new cures, and much more.

Since HPC and AI applications share the same underlying technologies and infrastructures, new developments in HPC are immediately being adopted for AI, and vice versa.

“Every ASEAN student, every ASEAN researchers should have unfettered access to High Performance Computing (HPC).”
Professor Tan Tin Wee
Chief Executive, National Supercomputing Centre

Background of the Competition

In the afternoon of 12 March 2019, OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to sit down with the people in charge of the 2nd APAC HPC-AI Competition.

They are Professor Tan Tin Wee, Chief Executive of National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) Singapore; Mr Gilad Shainer, Chairman of HPC & AI Advisory Council; and Mr Charlie Foo, Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific & Japan, Mellanox.

The briefing session began with Gilad explaining the competition.

The APAC HPC-AI competition encourages international teams in the APAC region to showcase their HPC and AI expertise in a friendly yet spirited competition that builds critical skills, professional relationships, competitive spirits and lifelong camaraderie.

The competition was born after realising the need to build the next generation, who will drive the innovation and create the products of the future.

It is open to all universities and technical institution or teams in the Asia Pacific region. Universities will benefit from HPC as this will provide them with the computing power to do better research.

Aside from that, he said that HPC will enhance the capabilities of the universities, thereby producing more scientific discoveries.

In 2018, eighteen teams from seven countries including China, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Thailand made their success with outperformance both on technical prowess and team spirit.

For this year’s competition, the number of competitors has increased, attracting over twenty teams.

The aim of the second competition is to educate, empower, and bring together next-generation technology leaders to address challenges around AI development and high-performance computing workloads.

The competition will start on 12 March 2019 and will continue through until 26 July 2019.

All of their work will be published as this can help those who are working on something similar to their projects, which therefore helps the community.

This type of competition has proven successful as previous participants of the initiative are now working as programmers and developers of big companies.

The final result will be announced in August. The first place winner will be invited to participate in the 2020 International HPC-ISC Student Cluster Competition, to be held in Germany in June 2020.

The winner will compete with other representatives from all over the world in a 3-day competition that will test their ability to get through real world scenarios.

Countries invest in HPC because this reinforces national capability. Countries with more resources are capable of having a deeper understanding of the technology, giving them more advantage over other countries.

ASEAN-shared HPC

However, Professor Tan Tin Wee, shared that developing countries should not be worried as developed countries are planning to contribute. In fact, the Professor shared that ASEAN leaders are meeting on Thursday and Friday, 14 – 15 March 2019, to discuss how to create an ASEAN- shared HPC.

According to him, “Every ASEAN student, every ASEAN researchers should have unfettered access to HPC.”

He explained that they have already built the network infrastructure for every university in the ASEAN countries to connect to the internet and high speed.

This will then provide the connectivity to access a supercomputer shared resource that they have built.

The ASEAN leaders, according to the Professor, will be discussing how they can architect the infrastructure to make this possible for the lesser developed countries.

He reassured that they are also taking care of the lesser endowed countries.

Charlie shared how proud Mellanox is to be a part of the competition as a key sponsor for the second year running.

The Mellanox name is synonymous to high performance computing, driving 9 out of 10 of the supercomputers in the world.

Building Talents

The company finds value in exposing the teams to their technology. It gives them a sense of fulfilment to see a positive ROI in the perspective of helping to build the talents who will propagate the whole HPC idea.

He shared that he recently met one of the winners from last year’s competition and learned that he is actually working with one of the biggest companies now.

The briefing session concluded with the learning that this competition is able to do two important things:

  1. Help talented people find a job with big companies
  2. Help leading AI companies to have access to the top talents.

The first place winning team will be receiving US$ 5,000 and a reserved spot representing APAC at the 2020 International HPC-ISC Student Cluster Competition, Germany.

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