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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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.

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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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