Who will benefit from Intel dropping Omni-Path?

Spoofing the Spoofers

Henry has a brilliant idea to weaponize his password generator against phishing attacks.

Intel Drops Omni-Path

Henry and Shahin take a close look at the history of High Performance Interconnects, recent news, and how the market is changing profoundly. The departure of Intel from this segment is good news for some, and it remains to be seen what strategy Intel will adopt for the HPC market.

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Henry brings up one his favorite topics (going all the way back to our very first episode): the dreaded Silent Data Corruption, this time as part of the testing that the 737 MAX is undergoing. As he’s wont to do, Shahin puts this in the context of our collective transition from the Industrial Age to Information Age. He thinks the series of issues with the plane prove just how difficult it is for manufacturers to go more and more digital.

Another rewrite for 737 Max software as cosmic bit-flipping tests glitch out systems – report

Testing focused on flipping five bits, said to control some of the most crucial parameters: positioning of flight controls and activation state of flight control systems, such as the infamous MCAS anti-stall system.

Shahin:

Shahin thinks the mention of building an AI supercomputer by Microsoft is intriguing. They already offer Cray capability in Azure and enquiring minds want to know more.

Microsoft to invest $1 billion in OpenAI, will jointly develop new supercomputer technologies

Microsoft and OpenAI also plan to work together on new AI supercomputing technologies to solve the world’s hardest problems. “The companies will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology, and adhere to the two companies’ shared principles on ethics and trust…”

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Is Our Future Liquid Cooled? Also: Provenance of Surveillance Data!

The Veracity and Provenance of Surveillance Data

Controversy strikes when news breaks that “Amazon’s home security company Ring has enlisted local police departments around the country to advertise its surveillance cameras in exchange for free Ring products and a “portal” that allows police to request footage from these cameras, a secret agreement obtained by Motherboard shows.”

The nature of such agreements can, well, garner national attention, as we see here (and do our part). That kind of attention led to the PD cited in the news in Lakeland, FL, to clarify its relationship with Ring, saying “their agreement isn’t about fostering a particular brand of doorbell, but rather any tool that helps crime-fighting.” Several important topics come up which can easily kindle, if not ignite, passions, and they do here also.

All of this is because the evidentiary benefits of actual images is not in doubt. Or is it?! An important issue in this day and age is the veracity and provenance of video feeds, which are liable to be complete fabrications. Welcome to the digital age!

New Supercomputer in Austria

A new system built by Lenovo checks in at #82 on the TOP500 list and is liquid cooled, leading to a debate on the future of cooling and various forms of liquid-cooling: direct contact, immersion, phase chance. Dan puts Henry and Shahin on the spot to look in the crystal ball and see if they can see it as clearly as he does. He thinks they failed.

VSC-4 from Lenovo is Austria’s most powerful supercomputer

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Apple looks ahead to 5G with purchase of Intel’s smartphone-modem unit

Apple is paying Intel $1 billion for the chip maker’s smartphone-modem division in a deal driven by the upcoming transition to the next generation of wireless technology.

The agreement announced Thursday comes three months after Apple AAPL, -2.12%   ended a long-running dispute with one of Intel’s rivals, Qualcomm QCOM, -0.07%  . That ensured Apple would have a pipeline of chips it needs for future iPhones to work on ultrafast wireless networks known as 5G.

The Apple-Qualcomm truce prompted Intel INTC, -1.91%   to abandon its attempts to make chips for 5G modems, effectively putting that part of its business up for grabs.

Shahin:

Shahin talks about Stephen Wolfram‘s blog describing his appearance before a US Senate committee.

Testifying at the Senate about A.I.-Selected Content on the Internet

Three and a half weeks ago I got an email asking me if I’d testify at a hearing of the US Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. Given that the title of the hearing was “Optimizing for Engagement: Understanding the Use of Persuasive Technology on Internet Platforms” I wasn’t sure why I’d be relevant.

But then the email went on: “The hearing is intended to examine, among other things, whether…

Dan:

An entire nation just got hacked

(CNN) – Asen Genov is pretty furious. His personal data was made public this week after records of more than 5 million Bulgarians got stolen by hackers from the country’s tax revenue office.

In a country of just 7 million people, the scale of the hack means that just about every working adult has been affected.

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Is Cloud Too Expensive for HPC?

Is cloud too expensive for HPC?

Enquiring minds want to know, as does the HPC community whose single-minded obsession with maximum price-performance is notorious and legendary. The Radio Free team looks at actual cloud pricing based on available data and Dan’s research which fuel a hearty discussion.

They look at configurations, compare prices, talk about the costs that are not included, segment the market, and then segment the applications.

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Henry highlights of the importance of having external 3rd party teams and defined processes (FIPS, Common Criteria, GDPR, etc.) test your equipment. This follows the detection of vulnerabilities in a data center class SSD. Nobody can disagree with that, of course.

Shahin:

Reflections on Trusting Trust, Turing Award Lecture by Ken Thompson

To what extent should one trust a statement that a program is free of Trojan horses? Perhaps it is more important to trust the people who wrote the software.

[…]

In college, before video games, we would amuse our- selves by posing programming exercises. One of the favorites was to write the shortest self-reproducing pro- gram. Since this is an exercise divorced from reality, the usual vehicle was FORTRAN. Actually, FORTRAN was the language of choice for the same reason that three-legged races are popular.

 

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Quantum Apps Are Hybrid

“Quantum applications are always and only hybrid” is the quote that Shahin wants you to remember as he gives an update on recent news in Quantum Computing, and especially how to program them. If you’re always going to have to mix classical code with quantum code then you need an environment that is built for that workflow, and thus we see a lot of attention given to that in the QIS (Quantum Information Science) area. This is reminiscent of OpenGL for graphics accelerators and OpenCL/CUDA for compute accelerators.

Henry talks about 5G and how people are starting to get serious bandwidth: 1.8 gbps has been seen on existing smart phones. Henry’s super fast cable modem set-up is delivering 220 gbps and 16ms latency. And 5G is only going to get better with advertised peaks of 20 gbps and 4ms latency depending on frequency and handset and power, etc. Everyone then picks on an easy target: DSL.

Dan gives a heartfelt farewell to the retiring Titan supercomputer, complete with the matching sombre music in the background, which, discerning listeners will note, plays only when he’s talking. Affection for Titan continues in its memory, and we imagine possibly also its DRAM.

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Another week another cyber-security breach! Henry has a few of them but it’s all too depressing, so he decides to pass this week.

Shahin:

Shahin is looking forward to attending the Hot Chips conference to be held at Stanford August . Henry is envious, given the technology candy store that the conference represents. Shahin promises to take good notes and report back in a future episode. Let him know if you’ll be there.

Dan:

Dan talks about cyber-attacks and ransomeware targeting small and mid-sized cities, the impact on insurance rates, and what a hard problem that is to solve.

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HPC Market Eyes $44B in 5 Years

HPC Market Eyes $44B

New report from Hyperion Research has the HPC+AI market growing to $44B, with a B, in 5 years. The industry is hitting on all cylinders, benefiting from

  • The ExaScale race,
  • AI coming to the enterprise only to find that it needs, or really is, HPC, depending on your point of view, and
  • it’s usual, sometimes slow but always steady, growth

The big news continues to be AI fundamentally bringing HPC closer to the mainstream of enterprise computing whether it is on-prem, in a co-location facility, or in a public cloud.

All of this is starting big changes in the industry. We see this in mergers and acquisitions (basically new companies), new technologies, new architectures, and new business models. An example of the latter is the loosening of chip licensing, with open source models starting to get attention. Unlike open source software, however, silicon needs a fab, and the necessary electronic design automation software applications don’t have equivalent open source alternatives.

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Following a supply chain security breach, Henry predicts that standards bodies like NIST and ISO will become even more active in this area with guidelines for hardware, software, and processes.

Shahin:

Shahin talks about Apple’s design chief, Jony Ive, leaving the company and shares some jokes on social media that fall flat for Dan and Henry, who probably claim it has nothing to do with them being such PC aficionados.

Jony Ive, Designer Who Made Apple Look Like Apple, Is Leaving to Start a Firm

Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer and one of the most influential executives in the history of the Silicon Valley giant, is leaving the company. Mr. Ive will depart this year to start his own design company, Apple said on Thursday. Through his new firm, LoveFrom, Mr. Ive will continue to work on a wide range of Apple products, the company said.

Dan:

Dan concludes the show without a “catch” this week!

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ExaScale is a 4-way Competition

ExaScale is a 4-way Competition

In this post-ISC show, the RadioFree team discusses

  • Magical cooling technology from Europe. Dan goes over magic beads that draw heat away and can carry-on doing it pretty much forever in a technology from the venerable Fraunhofer Institute and showcased by Lenovo.
  • How pursuit of ExaScale computing is turning into heated competition with the US, China, Japan, and Europe. The European effort is targeting 2 pre-exa installation in the coming months, and 2 actual ExaScale installations in the 2022-2023 timeframe at least one of which will be based on European technology. This presumably refers to the European Process Initiative.
    The software ecosystem is an important consideration and how they all evolve and whether or not they converge will be a big issue.
  • Another heated competition at the ISC Student Cluster Competition with the team from South Africa claiming the top spot. Dan has developed an efficiency metric that he will unveil in a future episode. This could separate the prowess of the team from that of the system!

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Henry point out the challenge for customers when the company that breached their data goes out of business.

Collections Firm Behind LabCorp, Quest Breaches Files for Bankruptcy

A medical billing firm responsible for a recent eight-month data breach that exposed the personal information on nearly 20 million Americans has filed for bankruptcy, citing “enormous expenses” from notifying affected consumers and the loss of its four largest customers.

 

Shahin:

Shahin highlights a paper on the beginnings of the programming language APL. A cool historical account.

The Socio-Technical Beginnings of APL, by Eugene McDonnell

This paper gives some of the history of implementations of APL, and concentrates on the system aspects of these implementations, paying special attention to the evolution of the workspace concept, the time-sharing scheduling strategy, and the handling of the terminal. It contrasts the development of APL with the development of other time-sharing systems which were being built at the same time.

Dan:

Dan relays the sad story of the multi-year demise of a the honor bar at the hotel near ISC.

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Why did HPE buy Cray?

Why did HPE buy Cray?

The RFHPC team tackles the HPE-Cray acquisition as it reviews the companies’ recent moves and strengths and market conditions in the context of:

  • the 5-tier data center application architecture: Embedded, Mobile, Desktop, On-premises, Off-premises
  • the emergence of AI as a must-do enterprise app, and
  • increasing commonality between supercomputers and enterprise servers.

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Another week another breach!

Massive Quest Diagnostics data breach impacts 12 million patients

A massive data breach has struck Quest Diagnostics and the information of up to 11.9 million patients has potentially been compromised. On Monday, the US clinical laboratory said that American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), a billing collections provider that works with Quest, informed the company that an unauthorized user had managed to obtain access to AMCA systems.

 

Dan:

Dan points out that the new Apple Mac Pro can be configured to cost tens of thousands of dollars. Given that he and Dan are PC people, the nuances of the Apple value are obviously lost of them, goes the counter argument.

Apple’s top spec Mac Pro will likely cost at least $35,000

That’s before you count the GPUs or a Pro Display XDR screen.
Apple announced today that its new Mac Pro starts at an already pricey $6,000, but the company neglected to mention how much the top-of-the-line model will cost. So we shopped around for equivalent parts to the top-end spec that Apple’s promising. As it turns out: $33,720.88 is likely the bare minimum — and that’s before factoring in the four GPUs, which could easily jack that price up to around $45,000.

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Quantum Computing and HPC

Quantum Computing and HPC

Another scintillating and insightful episode of RFHPC is about Quantum Computing and HPC and how the two spaces are evolving and cooperating.

We welcome a a distinguished guest with a most suitable background to talk to us about HPC and Quantum Computing. Mike Booth,  who’s been in supercomputing since 1979 including stints at Cray through 2000 where he ran the Software and Applications division and was later a GM at StorageTek heading the network storage division. He got into Quantum Computing when he joined D-Wave. He had just accepted to be the CTO of Quantum Computing, Inc. when we recorded this show.

We discuss and touch on how Quantum Computing and HPC interface, analog vs digital, qubits, magnets, resistors, connectors, cryogenics, algorithms, languages, the huge search spaces, NP-complete problems, quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (Qubo), Tabu search, etc. and how they are two different games right now but touching two sides of the big problems that represent grand challenges. Because QC is an accelerator, it fits nicely with how a lot of HPC is being done today.

We’re going to have to bring Mike back and we look forward to that.

ExaScale at Oakridge

Mike happens to be in Tennessee, and the episode was recorded when the new ExaScale system at Oakridge was announced so the team. That was quite a significant day for US science, and a second big win for Cray, this time with AMD. It’s one of the few large systems that is not based on Intel or Nvidia technologies, and was described as:
  • 100 Cray Shasta cabinets
  • 40 MW power
  • More than 1 million lbs weight
  • 7,300 square feet
  • 90 miles of cabling
  • 5,900 gallons of water per minute for cooling

We don’t remember who exactly had a hard stop, but no time for Catch of the Week this week, which some of you would be pleased to hear!

Give it a listen (and take good notes!).

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TOP500 Jun2019, Facebook Coin

The new TOP500 list of most powerful supercomputers is out and we do our usual quick analysis. Not much changed in the TOP10 but a lot is changing further down the list. Here is a quick take:

  • There are 65 new entries in 2019.
  • US science is receiving support via DOE sites and academic sites like TACC.
  • 26 countries are represented. China continues to widen its lead, now with 219 entries, followed by the US with 116, Japan with 29, France with 19, the UK with 18, Germany with 14, Ireland and the Netherlands with 13 each, and Singapore with 10.
  • Vendors substantially reflect the country standings. Lenovo has 175 entries, Inspur 71, and Sugon 63, all in China. Cray with 42 and HPE with 40 (which will combine when their deal closes), followed by Dell at 17 and IBM at 16.  Bull has 21 entries.
  • There are a lot of “accidental supercomputers” on the list. These are systems that probably are not be doing much science or AI work but they could, and the vendors counted them and it seems to be within the rules to list them. It’s controversial but not a new practice.
  • There are several systems listed as “Internet” companies. Hard to tell what that means but it points to the existence of very large clusters in the cloud for whatever purpose. Last year, there was one system listed as Amazon EC2, which remains on the list. This time, there is also one at Facebook. Usually the big social/cloud players don’t care to participate, though they obviously could summon the resources to run the benchmarks.
  • Just over half of systems use Ethernet as a fabric. A quarter us InfiniBand, nearly 50 use Intel’s OmniPath, and the rest, 55, use custom interconnects like the ones Cray provides. The team talks about Cray+HPE entering the interconnect business for real and if so, they will be formidable.
  • The majority of entries, 367, do not have any accelerators. 125 use Nvidia GPUs.
  • The overwhelming majority of the systems, 478 of them, are based on Intel CPUs. 13 are IBM, and there is 1 system based on Arm provided by Cavium, now part of Marvell.
  • So the when it comes to chips, it’s an Intel game with a respectable showing by Nvidia when GPUs are used. Alternatives are bound to appear as the tens and tens of AI chips in the works become available and Arm, AMD, and IBM build on. The recently announced system at Oakridge will be all AMD, and that will point to an alternative as well.
  • Notably, Intel is listed as the vendor for 2 entries and Nvidia is listed for 4. While Intel has stayed largely away from looking like a system vendor, Nvidia is going for it with its usual alacrity. That, and the pending acquisition of Mellanox by Nvidia should serve as a warning to all system vendors who might feel stuck between treating Nvidia as an important supplier and an up and coming competitor.

CryptoSuper500

Shahin mentions the 2nd edition of the CryptoSuper500 list (really 50 for now), a list developed by his colleague Dr. Stephen Perrenod, which was launched last November, and is being released at the same time as the TOP500. The TOP500 has spawned variations that look at different workloads and attributes, for example, the Green500Graph500, and IO500 lists. CryptoSuper500 was inspired by those lists. The material for the inaugural edition of the CryptoSuper500 list here.

Cryptocurrency mining operations are often pooled and are very much supercomputing class, typically using accelerator technologies such as custom ASICs, FPGAs, or GPUs. Bitcoin is the most notable of such currencies. Scroll down for the top-10 list and see the slides for the full list and the methodology.

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Henry talks about check-out lanes at Target all being down for unknown reasons, though he hesitates to call that a cybersecurity breach. It turned out he’s right and the company blamed an “internal technology issue”.

Target down (then back up) as cash registers fail and leave long lines

Target’s payment systems appeared to be missing the mark the day before Father’s Day, as terminals went AWOL for a couple of hours in a number of the company’s US retail outlets. The outage caused long lines but prompted an encouraging show of sympathy for Target employees from people on Twitter. And there were some jokes too, of course.

Shahin:

Facebook is expected to release a new cryptocurrency that is already impacting the crypto market.

Here’s what we know so far about the secretive Facebook coin

Facebook is likely to release information about its secretive cryptocurrency project, codenamed Libra, as soon as June 18, TechCrunch reports.

As is traditional with new cryptocurrencies, the social networking giant is expected to release a so-called “white paper” outlining how the currency works and the company’s plans for it.

 

Dan:

Dan reminds us all of the inimitable Erich Anton Paul von Däniken and his ancient astronauts hypotheses!

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Forty+ different AI chips

What are we going to do with 40+ different AI chips?

This week, the team looks at AI chips again, this time motivated by an article in EE Times about once such chip, Graphcore, and touts it as “the most complex processor” ever at some 20 billion transistors. The VC-backed company out of Bristol, UK is also valued on paper at $1.7b, gaining it the coveted “unicorn” status, apparently the “only western semi-conductor unicorn”.

This being one of 40+ such AI chips (and that may be conservative), the odds of success are tough and the task formidable. But even if only 2 or 3 of such chips become successful, that’s already a significant disruption to the market.

The Graphcore chip is 16nm, 1.6GHz, and comes in a PCIe card at 300W. You can stack 8 of these in a 4U chassis, so 2.4 kW just for those.

After a mini-rant about respected publications succumbing to clickbaits, the team talks about how cooling will be an issue and calls again for more clarity in performance metrics since the chip is rated at 125 TFlops but we don’t know at what precision. Shahin reminds the team of his suggestion to clarify things by including precision in the metric, like DFlops for double precision, and then S for single, H for half, and Q for quarter precision.

Henry talks about how hard it is to build and test complex software like this despite Shahin’s view that the modern software stack is too high so the chip need only be concerned with a couple of layers, codes are new and open to getting recompiled, it’s increasingly open source, cloud providers and large customers have the wherewithal to do the job, and traditional HPC customers have the willingness to do the work if performance enhancements are there.

No “Catch of the Week” this time since Henry had a hard stop. We’re used to it!

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