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IBM Competition Pushes Student Teams To Tackle Big Data Research Problems

Prominent schools around the world are competing in the second annual Power8 University Challenge. This event brings computer science faculty and students together at their institutions to tackle big data research using IBM's latest high-performance computing tools.

Last year's winner, a team from Rice University, took the prize for its work, "Genome Assembly in a Week." Team leader Professor Erez Aiden and his students Sarah Nyquist and Chris Lui were recognized for their efforts in using POWER8-based computational approaches to assemble a complete genome in a week.

Power8 is a type of RISC chip based on the Power architecture, a technical specification governed by a consortium of companies and other types of organizations under the umbrella of

OpenPOWER, a foundation dedicated to creating an open ecosystem that uses the POWER architecture, introduced the university challenge with IBM and affiliated member companies such as Nvidia and Mellanox Technologies.

Among this year's institutional competitors are:

  • Holland's Delft Technical University, which is working to accelerate gene sequencing with the use of POWER8 along with reconfigurable acceleration as a platform for in-memory big data computation on Apache Spark;
  • China's Tsinghua University, which is doing machine-based stock price prediction using social network data and company news;
  • Louisiana State University, which is introducing innovations to a university-developed genome assembler that will allow terabytes of "less expensive" flash to appear as main memory to the genome assembly application; and
  • The University of Texas at Austin, where the Texas Advanced Computing Center is incorporating IBM POWER8 systems into an existing research infrastructure cloud named FAbRIC to make services available to a worldwide audience of OpenPOWER developers for research purposes.

The competition will continue through the fall. During IBM's InterConnect2016 cloud and mobile conference in February, a "best in class" winner will be announced.

"The incredible momentum of the open, collaborative innovation model of OpenPOWER has students and professors more excited than ever to work with Power Systems," said Terri Virnig, vice president of IBM's power ecosystem and strategy group, in a blog article about the contest.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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