Design Your Own Virtual Supercomputer

Purdue studnets have created Rack-A-Node, an online game that challenges players to design and operate a simulated research supercomputer.

Ever wondered what it's like to design a supercomputer? Computer science students from Purdue University have created an online game that can provide a virtual taste of the experience. Rack-A-Node challenges players to design and operate a simulated research supercomputer. You must stay within your budget as you fill racks with hardware and complete computing tasks. But watch out for those power loads!

The game was built to highlight Purdue's participation in the Cluster Challenge at the SC '08 supercomputer conference on Nov. 15-21 in Austin, in which college teams compete to see who can build the best supercomputer in a day.

"Rack-A-Node is a game that captures the essence of the supercomputer challenge," says Kyle Bowen, informatics manager for Information Technology at Purdue. "The player has to optimize the supercomputer for the type of science being performed."

An example: the game begins with a chemistry job that requires a lot of memory, then a climate-modeling job, which is a high throughput task that needs faster network communication. Later, a 3-D science animation-rendering job requires multiple nodes to process. Rack-A-Node also includes jobs from life sciences, pharmacy, physics and engineering.

"Supercomputing is not the most accessible of topics (and) can be difficult to understand," said Bowen. "We worked with a research scientist in Information Technology at Purdue to make sure the game is fairly realistic but still fun to play."

Be sure to read the instructions closely, as you'll advance more quickly once you do (wonder how I knew that). The high scores suggest that some folks are already spending a great deal of time playing Rack-A-Node. (Link via InsideHPC)

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