Enterprises go HPC, Chips go Open Source, China goes for the top spot

We continue to want to make these introductions pretty brief here but not this time, apparently! Here’s this week’s synopsis.

Nvidia GTC 2019 announcements

We discussed the recent GTC conference. Dan has been attending since well before it became the big and important conference that it is today. We get a quick update on what was covered: the long keynote, automotive and robotics, the Mellanox acquisition, how a growing fraction of enterprise applications will be AI.

In agreement with the message from GTC, Shahin re-iterates his long-held belief that the future of enterprise applications will be HPC and once again asserts that AI as we know it today is a subset of HPC. Not everyone agrees. Henry brings up varying precisions in AI and a discussion ensues about what is HPC. There seems to be agreement that regardless of what label you put on it, it is the same (HPC) industry and community that is driving this new trend. And that led to a discussion of selling into the enterprise and the need for new models and vocabulary and such.

Speaking of varying precision, there is also Nvidia’s new automatic mixed precision capability for Tensorflow and there is a bit of discussion on that.

China plans multibillion dollar investment in supercomputing

On the heels of the Aurora announcement, there was news in the South China Morning Post that the top spot in supercomputing is something the country is investing in. No surprise, but interesting to see, and consistent with the general view that supercomputing drives competitive strength.

Catch of the Week

Henry:

Facebook Stored Hundreds of Millions of User Passwords in Plain Text for Years

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users had their account passwords stored in plain text and searchable by thousands of Facebook employees — in some cases going back to 2012, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. Facebook says an ongoing investigation has so far found no indication that employees have abused access to this data.

Shahin:

MIPS R6 Architecture Now Available for Open Use

MIPS 32-bit and 64-bit architecture – the most recent version, release 6 – will become available Thursday (March 28) for anyone to download at MIPS Open web page. Under the MIPS Open program, participants have full access to the MIPS R6 architecture free of charge – with no licensing or royalty fees.

Dan:

Vengeful sacked IT bod destroyed ex-employer’s AWS cloud accounts. Now he’ll spent rest of 2019 in the clink

An irate sacked techie who rampaged through his former employer’s AWS accounts with a purloined login, nuking 23 servers and triggering a wave of redundancies, has been jailed.

 

Dead LAN’s hand: IT staff ‘locked out’ of data center’s core switch after the only bloke who could log into it dies

‘We can replace it but we have no idea what the config is on the device’

Listen in to hear the full conversation.

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Multicore Scaling Slow Down, and Fooling AI

The team has an animated discussion about multicore scaling, how easy it seems to be to mislead AI systems, and some good sized catches of the week. A common thread is “data” as is often the case these days.

Dan makes a couple of important announcements.

First is the idea that is brewing about revamping the podcast.

Second, to the dismay of the vast number of his supporters, is his decision to not run for the highest office in 2020!

We continue with making these introductions pretty brief here. This time, we include not only the links but also the first paragraph of the linked page as a block quote so you have a bit more information about what is discussed.

Specialized Chips Won’t Save Us From Impending ‘Accelerator Wall’

As CPU performance improvements have slowed down, we’ve seen the semiconductor industry move towards accelerator cards to provide dramatically better results. Nvidia has been a major beneficiary of this shift, but it’s part of the same trend driving research into neural network accelerators, FPGAs, and products like Google’s TPU. These accelerators have delivered tremendous performance boosts in recent years, raising hopes that they present a path forward, even as Moore’s law scaling runs out. A new paper suggests this may be less true than many would like.

 

Nice ‘AI solution’ you’ve bought yourself there. Not deploying it direct to users, right? Here’s why maybe you shouldn’t

Top tip: Ask your vendor what it plans to do about adversarial examples.

RSA It’s trivial to trick neural networks into making completely incorrect decisions, just by feeding them dodgy input data, and there are no foolproof ways to avoid this, a Googler warned today.

 

Catch of the Week

MyEquifax.com Bypasses Credit Freeze PIN

Most people who have frozen their credit files with Equifax have been issued a numeric Personal Identification Number (PIN) which is supposed to be required before a freeze can be lifted or thawed. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have an account at the credit bureau’s new myEquifax portal, it may be simple for identity thieves to lift an existing credit freeze at Equifax and bypass the PIN armed with little more than your, name, Social Security number and birthday.

 

Announcing the Open Sourcing of Windows Calculator

Today, we’re excited to announce that we are open sourcing Windows Calculator on GitHub under the MIT License. This includes the source code, build system, unit tests, and product roadmap. Our goal is to build an even better user experience in partnership with the community. We are encouraging your fresh perspectives and increased participation to help define the future of Calculator.

 

Huawei Sues The US, Prodding It to Prove Suspicions

THE WORLD’S LARGEST telecommunications-equipment company, China’s Huawei, is suing the US government. But the suit isn’t just about US law. It’s part of Huawei’s larger campaign to defend its role as a global provider of telecom gear amid fears that its technology is or could be used by the Chinese government for spying. In essence, Huawei is challenging the US government to prove its suspicions.

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AI: Realness and Bias

Starting with this episode, we’ll get a bit more efficient in describing the episodes. Please let us know if you prefer the long format. If you just subscribe on iTunes and never see these words, well, that tells us something too!

In this episode, the team discusses AI, bias in AI, and just how real actual AI out there is. Ethics in AI, policy, legal framework are all big threads here. The trigger is the rather funny article Artificial Intelligence, You Know it isn’t real, yeah?

Catch of the Week

Shahin applauds NIST’s new Risk Management Framework, and especially the inclusion of supply chain security, something he and Henry keep bringing up.

Henry discusses sensationalism in technical coverage by the example of an article that says blockchains can be hacked but lacks enough depth and thus fails to impress. As expected, Shahin comes to the defense of the technology, explaining that it depends on the consensus algorithm and participation, etc. not just blockchain per se. Discussion ensues about all manner of blockchains and the spectrum that is forming there with permissioned and permissionless chains.

Dan: In a switch from uplifting news to scary ones, Dan shares the news that Kalashnikov rolls out a weaponized suicide drone.

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Nvidia, Mellanox: Married!

Big news in the industry today was Nvidia buying Mellanox for $6.9B. This called fo an emergency session of our crack panel.

While it will be several months before the full impact of this merger is felt, the RFHPC team believes this will change both the HPC and the Datacenter markets. It also signals Nvidia’s journey towards becoming more of a systems company and gives them a better shot at the enterprise AI market.

This is also good news for all the alternatives in the market, Shahin and Henry believe. There are a large number of AI chips in the works around the globe, and a growing number of interconnect options on the market. They will now have a chance to present themselves as a more neutral option.

Since the combined company will now represent a bigger portion of the total bill, it has a strengthened hand in the face of growing competition, while, on the other hand, becoming a more visible part of the total system cost, inviting new competition.

Listen in to hear the full conversation.

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Arm for Exascale is Coming

The show starts with a brief reference to Henry’s “Gator” nickname, a shout out to listeners 13, 14, and 15, plus a bad Arm processor pun. (Puns are the lowest form of humor other than limericks, Dan wits.)

This is an Arm heavy show, with our opening discussion concerning the Arm system at Sandia and a talk given by Sandia’s Michael Aguilar at the recent HPC Advisory Council’s Stanford Conference. The new system, dubbed Astra, was built by HPE and is the biggest Arm-based super on the Top500 list at 2.3 PFlop/s.

The guys discuss how quickly the system was brought up and how Sandia didn’t run into any major problems along the way – which is unusual for a system utilizing a new processor. We take a tangent into a discussion of new chip architectures and how this is leading to more options for customers.

Keeping with the Arm theme, the conversation moves to the new Arm Neoverse 128 core server processor. The guys are a bit agog over the 7nm size of the processor, wondering who is fabbing the chip, guessing TSMC. The new chip is 2.5x faster than previous Arm server processors and, according to Arm, also uses 30% less power.

The conversation moves to RISC V and whether it will be used as an accelerator or a CPU – eventually agreeing that it can be both.  We discuss how the chip can be used in various ways and how it can potentially replace a lot of things, including ASICs, which is pretty mind blowing.

Catch of the Week

Henry’s Catch of the Week concerns a new hardware hack that allows miscreants to capture payment info from a phone at the gas station. The bad guy uses a Bluetooth based skimmer to send payment info from contactless payment cards (or phones assumedly) via SMS message to the miscreant. You can read the frightening details at the link above, which goes to Krebs on Security – a great site if you want to scare yourself senseless.

Shahin chimes in with something even scarier – the Evil USB Cable:  a USB patch cable that has an embedded wifi transmitter that can send all of the data flowing through that cable to a bad guy. Yikes!

Dan attempts to put minds at ease by exposing the truth behind a hacking myth:  can a hacker easily get control of your laptop’s webcam? The answer? Nope, they can’t. A Wall Street Journal writer worked with a highly qualified white hat hacker to see just what it would take for a hacker to gain control of a Windows or Mac embedded camera.

It turns out that penetrating a laptop camera is pretty difficult and not really possible unless the user cooperates to make it work. On the Windows side, the writer had to disable Microsoft’s anti-virus and real time virus checking in order to get the hacker payload into her system. The file was also flagged as dangerous by Microsoft Word, so she had to dismiss that warning as well.

The Mac OS was even more difficult for the hacker to penetrate. First, the user had to install LibreOffice, meaning she had to disable Mac security settings that prevent unverified software from installing on her system. She also had to disable the security inside LibreOffice.

Take a look at the article and see if you agree with Dan, who believes that laptop cameras can’t be hacked by outsiders unless you essentially invite them in by disabling your OS and application security.

Subscribe on iTunes or Download this week’s edition of Radio Free HPC for a chance of winning out eternal gratitude and respect!

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The sinking of the Itanic, a respectful farewell

Our conversation begins with Dan berating Henry for cheaping out on a new headset for our Radio Free HPC recordings. (Henry has since relented and pried open his wallet to purchase a truly fine headset.)

Finally, we get on to the show proper. After years of futility, Intel has finally put a stake in the heart of their Itanium processor. The final shipment will take place in 2021. The boys discuss some Itanium history and reasons behind the end of the processor. Shahin gives us a tutorial on the history of 64 bit computing and we discuss the chip wars in general.

Following a respectful farewell to Itanium and all that it offered, we moved on to discuss how the European exascale effort is shaping up. Recent news articles are discussing how countries in the European Union are ganging up in an effort to win the honor of hosting the fastest supercomputer in Europe. The first consortium consists of Nordic countries Finland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, plus the Czech Republic, Belgium, and The Netherlands. Two of the advantages these countries have are power costs that are half of the European average, along with temperatures to match (which will help with cooling).

The guys talk about what the term ‘pre-exascale’ really means. Is it a 100 PB system? 200 PB? 300 PB? Tune into the broadcast to hear the thrilling answer. We also discuss the composition of the machine in terms of processors and accelerators.

Catch of the Week

Henry’s Catch of the Week confirms his distain for all things crypto currency related. A Canadian bitcoin exchange president dies suddenly and takes his password to his grave, taking with him the coins of more than 100,000 users said to total more than $130 million US. Henry is vindicated and Dan heartily agrees with him and piles on with “I hope Bitcoin goes below zero.” Shahin defends Bitcoin and Blockchain in general.

Shahin shares a game called The Last Man, where people compete to become the last person to learn about an event, such as who won the Superbowl.

Dan’s Catch of the Week is led by the admission that his comprehension of quantum computing is fleeting at best. Sometimes he gets it, and other times he doesn’t. Something that might help him get over the quantum hump is a series of comic books published by the NSF’s EPiQC that cover quantum computing history and how it works.

Be sure to download this episode of Radio Free HPC, you could be our 16th listener!

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Supercomputing to Modernize the Electric Grid

We open the show by talking some weather. It’s so cold at Henry’s house (in Minnesota) that he’s becoming a human superconductor and quantum computing experimenters are showing up at his house to test their systems under uber cold conditions. Shahin adds an inane joke about cold and levitation that Dan threatens to cut out of the final edit of the show.

Our first topic is how Lawrence Livermore National Lab is working to simulate and then help modernize the electric grid. We talk about how the ‘new grid’ will need to be two-way, both delivering and accepting electricity. The new grid will also have to communicate with smart homes and other buildings in order to predict demand and adjust real time pricing.

When the discussion turned to solar power, Henry related the problems of low payouts from utilities to consumers who have installed solar panels. Dan pointed out the current shortfalls in solar power, bringing up an example of the world’s largest solar plants still not generating enough juice to power the NYC subway system. Henry called Dan a dirty liar and an embarrassment to his family. Dan provided the following links to justify his take:

  1. On an annual basis, the NYC subway system uses 1.8 billion kilowatt hour of electricity. This is according to NYCsubway.org. This is 1,800 megawatts of electricity.
  2. According to an article published by Origin Energy on 10/24/18, the largest single location solar field is located in India and generates 648 MW of electricity. This is obviously less than the 1,800 megawatts necessary to power the NYC subway. Dan is vindicated.

Next up, we discuss some of the applications that are being run on the Summit supercomputer, the world’s largest system. Some of the applications include exploring the origin of the universe and whole-cell simulation, along with a host of other stuff. Our discussion strays into the recent announcement that scientists in Israel have supposedly cured cancer. This claim has since been debunked, or at least partially debunked…leaving it barely bunked at all.  As the conversation strays even further, Shahin suggests putting a giant mirror behind the sun in order to give us more solar energy. One hell of a good idea.

Catch of the Week

Shahin’s Catch of the Week starts as a mix of buzzwords combined together but clarifies itself (a bit) through explanation. What he’s talking about is a paper titled “Semi-device-independent quantum money with coherent states” that discusses using quantum computing to create unforgeable quantum banknotes and credit cards – definitely a good thing.

Dan’s Catch of the Week is the dust up between Apple and Facebook and how the two goliaths have become embroiled in a slap fight. In the ensuing discussion, Dan coins the phrase “if you’re not paying for an app, it’s a virus.” The gang also points out Facebook’s naiveté (whether it’s real or put on) when it comes to user privacy issues. Dan, warming to the topic of tech giants controlling our lives, brings up the example of Microsoft’s new “Newsguard” browser feature that passes judgement on whether news sites are credible or nor credible. Newsguard is a browser extension that users can activate on new versions of Microsoft’s Edge browser. Here are a few representative discussions about Newsguard and possible implications:  Gizmodo, Publishing Insider, and Breitbart.

Shahin believes that Newsguard is an AI fueled tool, which, upon further research, turns out to be incorrect. Newsguard uses ‘trained journalists’ to review and rate thousands of news and information websites. After a little more desultory conversation, the podcast ends on this disquieting note.

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What’s an AI Supercomputer? What’s up with software SMP?

We start our discussion by contemplating the fact that Shahin doesn’t have a middle name (he says he never needed one) and touching on why Henry has picked up the nick name ‘Gator’ Newman.

What’s an AI supercomputer?

Our first topic is whether a supercomputer can or cannot be a “AI Supercomputer.” This is based on France (along with HPE) unveiling a new AI system which will double the capacity of French supercomputing. So what are the differences between a traditional super and a AI super. According to Dan, it mostly comes down to how many GPUs the system is configured with, while Shahin and Henry think it has something to do with the datasets. Send us a note or a tweet if you have an opinion on this.

Software SMP hits 10k

The guys also discuss ScaleMP and how their announcement of record results, with close to 10,000 customers as of the close of 2018. This led to talk about SMP vs. MPP from a performance standpoint. Henry asserted that a clustered approach will always be superior to a big SMP approach, all things being equal. Dan doesn’t agree and Shahin confesses his love of ‘fat node’ clustering. Dan agrees with Shahin, but wonders why no one is doing it.

We also note that Mellanox got a nice design win with the Finns, as they’ll be installing 200 Gb/s HDR InfiniBand interconnect in a new Finnish supercomputer to be deployed in 2019 and 2020. The interconnect will be used in a Dragonfly topology.

Catch of the Week

  1. Shahin’s catch of the week is a mathematical puzzle titled “The most unexpected answer to a counting puzzle.” Here’s a link to the video.
  2. Dan likes a good comeback story and in light of that, his catch of the week is AMD nabbing a design win at Nikhef.
  3. Henry HAS NO CATCH OF THE WEEK. This makes him the “RF-HPC Villain of the Week” 🙂

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China Exascale Again (Tianhe-3 is coming), GDPR shows its teeth

After a short talk about the weather in Henry’s basement (it had just reached 60 F by the time we recorded the show), we got right down to business with an important announcement:  our pal Rich Brueckner is leaving the show. He just has too much on his plate and something had to give.

While we’re worried about the impact Rich’s departure might have on our listenership, we did take note of and welcome listeners 13, 14, and 15, who made themselves known to Henry on one of his recent business trips. Yay us.

Our first topic is China rolling out a successor to Tianhe-1, dubbed Tianhe-3. According to news articles, Tianhe-3 will be 200 times faster than Tianhe-1, with 100x more storage. What we don’t know is if these comparisons are relative to Tianhe-1 or Tianhe 1A. The later machine weighs in at 2.256 PFlop/s which means that Tianhe-3 might be as fast as 450 PFlop/s when complete. We also made a reference to a past episode, which we know you remember vividly, where we discussed China’s three-pronged strategy for exascale.

As we’re moving into our popular “Catch of the Week” segment, Shahin hijacks the conversation by questioning if anyone knows the real-world utilization rates of non-commodity configurations in public clouds. This leads to this bold estimate from Dan “I’ll bet that there isn’t a public cloud out there that has a higher than 60-65% utilization rate.” We have a spirited discussion about this pseudo-metric and how infrastructures are sized to handle peaks. We also brought up a story that malware can bring down public clouds, although someone would have to own your system before doing it.

Catch of the Week:

  1. Henry hipped us to a website that shows whether your email address or password have been powned: https://haveibeenpwned.com/
  2. Shahin brought up Google’s recent 50 million euro fine for GDPR violations:
  3. Dan discussed the case of a Dutch surgeon who won a landmark case to get her medical disciplinary records removed from Google searches.

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Weather Forecasting Goes Crowdsourcing, Q means Quantum

In this episode of Radio Free HPC, Dan, Henry, and Shahin start with a spirited discussion of IBM’s recent announcement regarding their crowd sourced weather prediction application. Henry was dubious as to whether Big Blue could get access to the data they need in order to truly put out a valuable product. Dan had questions about the value of the crowd sourced data and how it could be scrubbed in order to be useful. Shahin was pretty favorable towards IBM’s plans and believes that they will solve the problems that Henry and Dan raised.

IBM came up again in the show as the boys kick around IBM’s quantum computing commercial system. Shahin brought out the point that for a market that has few applications and success stories, it attracted nearly every big vendor in the business.

Catch of the Week:

Henry told the guys about a new security flaw as pointed out by Krebs, this one concerning an exploit of credit cards.

Shahin talked about the newly proposed Deep500 benchmark, designed to compare deep learning and inference performance.

Dan discussed a recent interview with a VC who believed that by 2035, more than 40% of jobs world wide would be taken over by AI. This prompted a discussion of how technology has impacted employment and the economy in the past and how the accelerating pace of economic displacement in the era of AI is much quicker than in any other time.

We end the episode by denouncing attorneys.

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