South African computer boffins have claimed third place at an international high-performance computer competition in Germany.
The team, made up of Meir Rosendorff, Joshua Bruton, Kimessha Paupamah, Katleho Mokoena, Nathan Michlo and Njabulo Sithole, from Wits and the University of Limpopo, competed in the Student Cluster Competition.
"I'm very happy with placing third," team manager David Macleod told News24 from Germany.
The team from Tsinghua University in China won the competition, repeating their 2017 feat. The South Africans were the only team from Africa, and were up against high-quality opposition from Europe and Asia. Healthy performance record Dr Happy Sithole, director of the South African Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) which supported the team, was very happy with the group's placement."This is a significant achievement from South Africa, as we bring a new team every year, while other teams repeat the students and even use postgraduates," Sithole said.For the students, the competition focused them on working in the Linux environment.
"The biggest challenge was the speed at which we had to learn it to compete at this level. We're a new team every year and we have to compete with teams who have been doing this every year," Rosendorff told News24.
He said that much of the world's computer systems were based on Linux and the competition gave the team important skills to operate in that environment.
But the students face the pressure of finishing their studies before they can consider long-term careers.
"There're a lot of options and pressure but I will finish my studies and with Meir, we'll probably set up a small cluster. There's a lot to think about," said Bruton.
South Africa has a healthy performance record in the Student Cluster Competition, having entered for the first time in 2013, winning it that year and again in 2014 and 2016.
SA came second in 2015 and 2017.
"The significance for this is to ensure we can grow the numbers, and hence more students are trained. For the past six years, we have had 36 students who performed well at world stage," said Sithole.
To qualify for the international competition, the South Africans go through a rigorous selection process at the CHPC.
At the CHPC's Winter School, participants build clusters on Linux systems and teams are required to build a prototype cluster in the cloud.The South African team, which is largely made up of computer science and engineering students, was also sent to the Texas Advanced Computing Centre in Austin, US, for extensive training and support.The CHPC is a Department of Science and Technology initiative, carried out through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).