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.


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 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.


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

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.

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RFHPC135: Azure Moves to OCP Platform

In this podcast, the Radio Free HPC team a set of IT and Science stories:

  • Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Ingrasys announced a new industry standard design to accelerate Artificial Intelligence in the next generation cloud. The Project Olympus hyperscale GPU accelerator chassis for AI, also referred to as HGX-1, is designed to support eight of the latest “Pascal” generation NVIDIA GPUs and NVIDIA’s NVLink high speed multi-GPU interconnect technology, and provides high bandwidth interconnectivity for up to 32 GPUs by connecting four HGX-1 together. The HGX-1 AI accelerator provides extreme performance scalability to meet the demanding requirements of fast growing machine learning workloads, and its unique design allows it to be easily adopted into existing datacenters around the world.
  • ARM comes to Azure. As another part of its Project Olympus, Azure is announced it is deploying a large number of ARM-based servers.
  • Springtime in Naples. AMD hopes to give Intel a run for its money with the new Zen-based Naples server platform. While the server benchmarks aren’t out yet, the desktop Zen chips have shown impressive applications performance for less money than Intel I7 chips.
  • Huawei Ranks Third Globally for 2016 Q4 Server Shipments. Gartner is out with surprising server market news that shows Huawei showing up at #3 in terms of shipments in 4Q2016. The numbers don’t seem to jive with what IDC says, but an 88 percent jump in severs sales quarter-to-quarter is great news for Huawei.
  • IBM’s Atomic Storage. This week, IBM announced it has created the world’s smallest magnet using a single atom – and stored one bit of data on it. Currently, hard disk drives use about 100,000 atoms to store a single bit. The ability to read and write one bit on one atom creates new possibilities for developing significantly smaller and denser storage devices, that could someday, for example, enable storing the entire iTunes library of 35 million songs on a device the size of a credit card.

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