Category: Hardware

US looking for vendors for two exascale supercomputers

Eniac-USarmyPhoto700The US Government is ready to seek vendors to build two exascale supercomputers — costing roughly $200 million to $300 million each — by 2019.

The two systems will be built at the same time and will be ready for use by 2023, although it’s possible one of the systems could be ready a year earlier.

However the boffins and the vendors do not know if   Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump’s administration will change directions. Indications are so far that science and supercomputers might be something that his administration are not keen on as they might be used to look at climate change.

At the annual supercomputing conference SC16 last week in Salt Lake City, a panel of government scientists outlined the exascale strategy developed by President Barack Obama’s administration. When the session was opened to questions, the first two were about Trump. One attendee quipped that “pointed-head geeks are not going to be well appreciated”.

Another person in the audience, John Sopka, a high-performance computing software consultant, asked how the science community will defend itself from claims that “you are taking the money from the people and spending it on dreams,” referring to exascale systems.

Paul Messina, a computer scientist and distinguished fellow at Argonne National Labs who heads the Exascale Computing Project said that the goal of the exascale computing project is to help economic competitiveness and economic security.

Politically, there ought to be a lot in HPC’s favor. A broad array of industries rely on government supercomputers to conduct scientific research, improve products, attack disease, create new energy systems and understand climate, among many other fields. Defense and intelligence agencies also rely on large systems.

There is also likely to be a technology race between the US and China. The Chinese want to have an exascale computer ready by 2020 which will challenge America’s tech dominance.

The US plans to award the exascale contracts to vendors with two different architectures. This is not a new approach and is intended to help keep competition at the highest end of the market. Recent supercomputer procurements include systems built on the IBM Power architecture, Nvidia’s Volta GPU and Cray-built systems using Intel chips.

The timing of these exascale systems — ready for 2023 — is also designed to take advantage of the upgrade cycles at the national labs. The large systems that will be installed in the next several years will be ready for replacement by the time exascale systems arrive.

 

 

Never mind AI, Intel has Nervana

3d2a123ddc312423225755a14fe7db2dChipzilla’s billion dollar investment in Nervana might be the key to making its server chips more intelligent.

Intel is laying out its roadmap to advance artificial intelligence performance across the board and Nervana technology appears to be everywhere.

The high-performance silicon market is dominated by GPUs. However, with Nervana inside, Intel hopes its new corporate tech with its a fully-optimized software and hardware stack will give that business model a good kicking.

Nervana hardware will initially be available as an add-in card that plugs into a PCIe slot. The first Nervana silicon, codenamed Lake Crest, will make its way to select Intel customers in H1 2017.

Intel is also talking about Knights Mill, which is the next generation of the Xeon Phi processor family. Intel said that Knights Mill will deliver a 4x increase in deep learning performance compared to existing Xeon Phi processors and the combined solution with Nervana will offer orders of magnitude gains in deep learning performance.

Diane Bryant, Executive VP of Intel’s Data Center Group said that the Intel Nervana platform to produce breakthrough performance and dramatic reductions in the time to train complex neural networks.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that Nervana’s technologies will produce a 100-fold increase in performance in the next three years to train complex neural networks, enabling data scientists to solve their biggest AI challenges faster.

Apple makes its MacBook Pro even less upgradeable

MACBOOKPROThe MacBook Pro is fast turning into the chocolate teapot of laptops. Not only is it packed with last year’s chips, Apple has designed it so that if you want to upgrade it you have to buy a new one.

The Touch Bar model, which has arguably the only bit of new technology in the range, has no cutout in the logic board for removable flash storage and a non-removable SSD.

Basically, Apple, in its wisdom, permanently soldered the SSD to the logic board, meaning that users will be unable to upgrade the Touch Bar MacBook Pro’s flash storage beyond Apple’s 512GB to 2TB.

Apple is hoping that users will back up data using Time Machine or a similar solution in case of logic board failure, but that sort of defeats the purpose of having a laptop over something more net based.

Jobs’ Mob has been doing this a lot lately. The 12 inch Macbook lacked a removable SSD. There is no advance for the user but every advantage for Apple. After all, if you want a better SSD you must buy a new computer.  However, it is yet another nail in the coffin for the laptop which had few good reasons to buy.  Of course, it has an Apple logo on the back, and that is enough for fanboys, but when it comes to spec, price and usefulness the beast is lacking.

UK’s Micro heads overseas

3-BACKThe Micro Bit mini-computer is now going to get a worldwide distribution and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions.

The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC.

About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year.

The BBC says they encourage children, especially girls, to code

Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intends to co-ordinate a wider rollout.

The foundation’s new chief executive Zach Shelby said the goal is to reach 100 million people with Micro Bit.

“That means [selling] tens of millions of devices… over the next five to 10 years.”

Micro Bits will be available across Europe before the end of the year and currently the outfit is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand.

Next year the foundation will target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware with a more powerful chip and better sensors.

Micro Bits currently sell for about £13, excluding the batteries needed to power them.

Samsung drags its feet on VR

maxresdefaultSamsung does not believe it needs to do much more on VR for the moment as it thinks that the display technology has gone as far as it can for now.

Samsung has made inroads into the mobile VR space thanks to the Gear VR for the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series.  For those who came in late, Samsung confirmed they were working on a standalone VR headset in April.  But it did not happen

Now it seems that the outfit has said that it does not believe the technology is quite there yet and they are holding back on releasing a standalone VR headset.

The company also says VR is at the peak of its hype phase, and they want to wait and see if the market matures.

Samsung’s President & Chief Strategy Officer, Young Sohn said that display technology needs to advance to at least twice the pixel density that we have in smartphones today.

In otherwords a until we can see a standalone VR headset with Ultra HD display panels there is little point putting “go faster stripes” on what we have.

Sohn said that it would cost Samsung $5 to $10 billion to push the technology and develop a 10K mobile display and it does not think it is worth that type of investment.  The fear is that the market will stagnate when the shine goes off the hype.

 

Cisco blames comic radiation for router failure

the Cisco kidNetworking giant Cisco has come up with a novel reason why its some of its routers were less than 100 per cent – cosmic radiation.

A Cisco bug report addressing “partial data traffic loss” on the company’s ASR 9000 Series routers contends that a “possible trigger is cosmic radiation causing SEU soft errors.”

A reader of Reddit’s networking section asked if anyone had seen ‘cosmic radiation’ as a cause for software errors in a bug report before?  Since the fix was to reload the line card, how on earth does that stop the radiation of distant stars stuffing up your router?

Some readers confirmed that cosmic radiation might be a thing, but its “gotten a bad rep as it’s not well explained and it’s not the be-all and end-all of outages.”

However most people thought that it was rubbish as cosmic radiation does not home in on a specific part of the router. It would also hit the control plane and other parts. ECC memory tends to make this a non-issue.

Cisco said that it has conducted extensive research, dating back to 2001, on the effects cosmic radiation can have on its service provider networking hardware, system architectures and software designs. Despite being rare, as electronics operate at faster speeds and the density of silicon chips increases, it becomes more likely that a stray bit of energy could cause problems that affect the performance of a router or switch.

Cisco wrote a  blog about the topic  in January 2012. In an effort to minimize the impact of radiation from “Single Event Upsets” (SEUs), it wanted to redesign our technology with custom silicon chips and software, and adopt protocols that use resiliency features.

Apple’s iPhone 7 is a “dick”

{EEB30F63-7755-43E1-8E54-F047F3A12BE5}Img100It seems that the fruity tax dodger, Apple cocked up when it did its research into the name of its iPhone 7.

If it had wanted to win the hearts and minds of Hong Kong’s population it should really have thought of a better name as calling it the “seven” which means “penis” in Mandarin slang.

The character for “seven,” pronounced tsat, is frequently used in slang not only for “penis” but to mean “goofy” or “dorky,” as in “You’re so seven”.

It has not helped that Apple has done some odd translations to Taiwanese and Mandarin as well, having the slogans read “Exactly is 7” and “7, is here.”

The jokes have been spreading widely around Hong Kong, with one person posting to Facebook, “Without a 3.5mm earbud jack, this is exactly penis.”

Apple is having trouble selling its “dick” in mainland China. Hong Kong should have been a safer port in a storm.

 

Sony issues take-downs of Playstation 4 news

euro gamerSony is issuing take-down notices against news blogs which show leaked pictures of the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim.

The outfit is expected to announce the new consoles on 7 September in New York but it seems the organisation has sprung a few leaks and snaps have started appearing online.  Sony however is not taking this lying down and has been issuing take-down notices on social media accounts.

Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted “Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY.”  Now that tweet has also gone along with others on Facebook.

The source of the leak is Eurogamer which even visited the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real.  It generated its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak.

The Eurogamer video has been pulled after taking “legal advice”. It is pretty likely that they received notes from m’learned friends from Sony too.  It left the photographs it took up and we have borrowed one to show you what all the fuss is about.

 

Flash Memory Summit 2016 – Consolidation?

FMS2016_BannerAd_300x250The Flash Memory Summit 16 will be convening at the Santa Clara Convention Center over August 9 -11, 2016. Flash memory is now established as a key technology enabling new designs for many products in the consumer, computer and enterprise markets.

Storage Crossover

The industry is at a critical juncture where the total cost of ownership for flash based SSD’s achieved crossover with hard disk drive equivalents last September as the enterprise storage medium of choice.

The fact that the number of producers is limited has altered the landscape of consumption with some analysts indicating that serious shortages will exist for some time to come. An interesting, but mitigating fact is that most of the analysts are not technical – the ones that we’ve talked to that have a technical bent are not so sanguine about the availability mix. One item that stands in the road to profits is the need for this next generation storage device to not only retain data but do so interactively without losing bits. The unrecoverable bit boogie man is now staring the industry down. The ability to store immense amounts of “ready data” for execution now depends on the technologies ability to reliably retain data.

All Flash Array producers are now entering the “really big data storage array” market – the battle has dropped down to the cost of storage per dollar creating a whole new category of marketing lows. 3D Flash is now so dense that failure modes are now dependent upon being aware of “how and when” the bits were used during the entire lifetime of the device.

Cork, Ireland NVMdurance was the first to understand this phenomenon and is now firmly embedded in their first customer Altera (now Intel). Pure and Nimble Storage are offering their services for their AFAs – seems that leasing AFA memory is a probable in the future of solid state storage. We’re still left reading the indemnification clauses of their contracts.

Poison Pill

Micron Technology filed with the SEC a poison pill last Friday. The buzz is that the company is once again in play. The likely suitor is none other than Intel according to the lead rumor. We will be talking with Micron and Intel at FMS 16 and although they’ll not say anything about what’s going on we’ll at the very least get to look into their pupils while they’re telling us…,

Surface Hub was a hit after all

surprised-newspaper-readerWhen the software king of the world, Microsoft, announced its Surface Hub, how the pundets mocked.

They claimed that it cost too much and would never sell, even to the enterprise which often pays too much for this sort of thing. However it turns out that they were not quite, but completely and utterly wrong.

Despite the fact that the Surface Hub was delayed twice and the company jacked the price of the device,  companies have rushed to buy it faster than lemmings to a cliff face. The device, which starts at $8,999 for the 55in and $21,999 for the 84in, has been purchased by more than 500 customers worldwide and Microsoft is ramping up production to meet the high level of demand.

Vole siad that demand for Surface Hubs is very strong and exceeded initial forecasts.

“To date, we’ve shipped to over 500 customers worldwide and that number continues to grow. We are ramping up production to meet this strong demand via our partner reseller channel as soon as possible. Customers are encouraged to speak with their sales representative if interested in ordering Surface Hubs.”

The Surface Hub is designed to be a collaborative device that lives in communal spaces like open office environments and conference rooms. It might be pricy but it has shedloads of technology and is a doddle for IT administrators  to plumb in. Now it looks like there is a waiting list.