Radio Free HPC Episodes ….In Case You Missed It

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There are fresh episodes of Radio Free HPC out in the wild and, in case you missed them, here’s what’s new:

ColdQuanta Serves Up Some Bose-Einstein Condensate

May 7, 2020

The show starts with Dan, Jessi and Shahin in attendance. Henry is traveling from his old home base in Minnesota to his new command bunker in lovely Las Cruces, NM. Last we heard he was in Kansas City and making good time. We’re not sure how long we’re going to have to do without him as Comcast seems to be slow playing him on his internet installation timeline.

Why Freeze the Whole Room If you Just want a Frozen Atom?

Our big topic today is the quantum computing company ColdQuanta. It’s headed by an old pal of ours Bo Ewald and has just come out of stealth mode into the glaring spotlight of RadioFreeHPC. They have a unique approach to quantum computing, trapping atoms themselves to create Bose-Einstein Condensate. This is a fifth state of matter, which matters quite a bit. When you freeze a gas of Bosons at low density to near zero you start to get macroscopic access to microscopic quantum mechanical effects, which is a pretty big deal. With the quantum mechanics start, you can control it, change it, and get computations out of it. The secret sauce for ColdQuanta is served cold, all the way down into the micro-kelvins and kept very locally, which makes it easier to get your condensate.

The company is focused on measurement and sensing but also mention straight computation, the latter like most of the other quantum competitors. They were the first company to put their quantum computer in space and the first to create Bose-Einstein Condensate while in orbit at the International Space Station.

Catch of the Week

Jessi:  Want to chill out and help NASA at the same time? Jessi has found a way with NeMO-Net, a game where users cruise through an animated ocean floor and classify coral structures. Your answers are then fed into NASA’s Pleiades supercomputer, which uses the data as fodder to improve it’s own identification prowess. It’s a great way to while away the hours during these Covid19 shut downs, right?

Shahin:  has two catches, the first is a celebration of IBM’s quant-iversary, marking the fourth anniversary of them having a quantum computer on the web – many happy returns to Big Blue. They’re also sponsoring a contest, see the web link for details.

In his second catch, Shahin shamelessly promotes his recent talk at the HPC AI Advisory Council virtual Stanford conference. He did a great job on covering just about every buzzword topic in the industry in only 30 minutes, well done.

Dan:  Dano likes fast things and seeing fast things get even faster. This is what attracted him to the story about ISV Risk Fuel and Microsoft’s Azure posting an article boasting a 20 million x speedup of derivative processing.  A 20 million times speedup of anything is pretty significant and they achieve this with a combination of 8 NVIDIA V100 GPUs (w/32GB memory each), InfiniBand and Risk Fuel’s amazing software. What’s great about this is that with this speed the model has complete fidelity with traditional calculations. In other words, you can speed all you like without any downside when it comes to accuracy – amazing stuff.

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Debate This: Server Sales Up 30% in Q1, Says Analyst Firm

May 18, 2020

We start off with an update from our crew. Jessie is at Purdue putting her belongings into storage in order to clear out her current abode. Shahin is doing fine, all quarantined up down in Silicon Valley. Henry has big news:  he’s completed his north-south journey and is now staying in a hotel very close to his newly constructed survivalist bunker near scenic Los Cruces, NM. What’s great for the workers finishing up the house is that Henry will now be there EVERY DAY to help them expedite construction and offer pro tips. That must be a dream come true for them.

Henry also announced that he’s going to host us RadioFreeHPC hosts for a live broadcast from his compound sometime in August. He’ll have his home pizza oven fired up and we’ll have a veritable feast while taking copious video of his new bunker and putting together a couple of shows. It should be a lot of fun.

Getting to our main topic, we discuss how the server business has been very healthy in the first quarter – growing more than 30% – which is astounding given these virus laden times. Henry links these results to his research that shows that Akami’s bandwidth use has grown a similar 30% during the first quarter. We speculate (and argue a little) over whether the bump in server sales can be attributed to folks buying pre-emptively to handle anticipated demand or whether they’re meeting current demand. Shahin and Dan feel that there was already excess capacity, since there haven’t been any reports of internet speed/capacity problems during the quarantine.

Our discussion continues on with speculation about just when the supply chain kink caused by the virus impacting component makers will hit the market. The lost production can’t be made up instantly and we also believe that there is probably going to be a demand shock at least with enterprise and, to a lesser extent HPC customers, because they simply don’t have the will to launch new IT projects in this environment. We’re not entirely sure we buy these numbers, since it’s from an analyst firm we’re not familiar with.

Reasons Why No One Should Ever Be Online. Ever.

Henry dug up a very timely hack this week, with an article detailing how hackers have built a Trojan Horse version of the widely-used Zoom video conferencing software. If you download Zoom from the wrong place, it will install Zoom – but with added ‘features’ that will allow hackers to pown your box – definitely not fun. So be sure you get your Zoom from either the company itself or from a reputable source.

Catch of the Week

Jessi:  Her topic is how spending on cyber security lobbying has more than tripled in the last few years. The cybersec folks are, thankfully, lobbying in favor of more security and privacy, often in direct opposition to industry giants Facebook and Google.

Henry:  The above referenced Akami article is Henry’s catch. He discusses how Akami is pumping out 167 terabits of data per second, but warns that this won’t be nearly enough when you consider the potential additional traffic due to the conversion to 5G. He puts forward a compelling argument that web infrastructure isn’t ready for the data deluge that is 5G. Nicely done, Henry.

Shahin:  Brings up our recent “Charles Babbage:  His Life & Times” dramatic presentation (it was awesome) to discuss how Baidu is now able to clone voices with just 3.7 seconds of samples. With more samples, it can change accents and even genders. He suggests that this could be good for our next drama foray.

Dan:  Starts a group discussion about how some college students are now suing their host institutions over Covid19 disruptions in order to get a portion of their tuition and fees returned or reduced.  Jessi, as our resident undergrad, weighs in with several powerful points while the others chip in with their old man knowledge.

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A is for Ampere, Nvidia A100’s Public Debut

June 1, 2020

NOTE:  The publication of this episode was delayed due to the untimely passing of our partner and pal Rich Brueckner. So what we’re announcing as “breaking news” isn’t so fresh today, but our takes on what NVIDIA’s new A100 processor brings to the table are still valid.

Breaking News! This special edition of RadioFreeHPC takes a deep dive into NVIDIA’s spanking new A100 GPU – which is an impressive achievement in processor-dom. The new chip is built with a 7nm process and weighs in at a hefty 54 billion transistors and capped at 400 Watts. It sports 6,912 FP32 CUDA cores, 3,456 FP64 CUDA cores and 422 Tensor cores.

This 8th generation GPU, using what the company calls its Ampere technology, is a replacement for both their V100 GPU and Turing T4 processors, giving the company a single platform for both AI training and inferencing.

We talk about the specs of the A100, breaking down its game both in terms of typical HPC FP64 processing and FP32 (and lower precision) computing for AI workloads. On the HPC side, the new GPU seems to offer an across the board 25% speedup, which is substantial. But the A100 really shines when it comes to tensor core performance which the company reports at an average speed up of 10x on Tensor Core 32 bit vs. V100 FP32.

New features of the A100 include Sparsity (a mechanism that doubles sparse matrix performance), a much speedier NVLink (2x), and a hardware feature that allows the A100 to be partitioned into as many as 7 GPU instances to support individual workloads.


All in all, this is an amazing new processor, a behemoth, large and hot, but so fast; a chip that is heavily tilted towards new AI and Tensor workloads with a passing but welcome nod to 64-bit HPC apps.

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HPC on the Edge

June 12, 2020

New Book Makes Sense of Edge Computing

After our typical inane opening, which includes an update on Henry’s Las Cruces bunker with  21” rammed earth walls, we get quickly down to business and begin our interview with very special guest, Dr. Cody Bumgardner, Assistant Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of Kentucky.

Our topic? Edge computing, what it is, what is isn’t, and why it’s important. Cody has just authored a book “Making Sense of Edge Computing.”

Dan starts us off with a question about the definition of edge computing, which as it turns out, covers a lot of ground. Henry comes in with a question about how 5G might impact edge computing and Shahin follows up by asking if 5G really has much to do with edge computing at all. There is some overlap, but 5G is a transmission mechanism rather than a computing mechanism, meaning that it’s the 5G device and what it is tasked to do that can make it either an edge device or not an edge device.

As the show goes on, we talk about the edge capacity in place and what still needs to be built, along with current and potential use cases. A good time is had by all.

Reasons Why No One Should Ever Be Online. Ever.

Henry shocks us yet again with news that people are being scammed by work-at-home deals that are actually ‘money mule’ schemes to help criminals launder their ill-gotten gains. Dan seems a little too curious about the mechanics and potential pay-offs of these deals.

Catch of the Week

Jessi: Jessi is pointing out that she has now moved for the third time in one academic semester and that she has more books than anything else. Ouch.

Henry:  Henry is off yelling at his contractors when his turn comes up, so no catch from him this week.

Shahin:  Article about how to program Aurora, highly recommended by Shahin.

Dan:   Discusses how the ISC2020 Student Cluster Competition will be virtual this year. He’ll be covering it as usual, but with a LOT of Zoom. Every team is going to be using the same cluster but sharing it. Stay tuned for more news.

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Coming Up….

Our next episode of Radio Free HPC will be a blockbuster of epic proportions. We can say, without hyperbole, that this will be our most groundbreaking show and potentially the biggest scoop in HPC podcast history. It will drop very soon, so keep your eyes and ears open, it’s going to be a doozy. And we don’t use a word like “doozy” every day, we reserve language like that for only the most significant of events.