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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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’

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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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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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RFHPC214: A Look at TOP500 Trends on the Road to Exascale

From left, Henry Newman, Dan Olds, Shahin Khan, and Rich Brueckner are the Radio Free HPC team

In this podcast, the Radio Free HPC team looks at the semi-annual TOP500 BoF presentation by Jack Dongarra.

The TOP500 list of supercomputers serves as a “Who’s Who” in the field of High Performance Computing (HPC). It started as a list of the most powerful supercomputers in the world and has evolved to a major source of information about trends in HPC. The 52nd TOP500 list will be published in November 2018 just in time for SC18. This BoF will present detailed analyses of the TOP500 and discuss the changes in the HPC marketplace during the past years. The BoF is meant as an open forum for discussion and feedback between the TOP500 authors and the user community.

After that, we do our Catch of the Week.

See our complete coverage of SC18

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