Thanks to a record fourth quarter, Cray posted a modest profit in 2016, representing its seventh straight year of profitability. The company also recorded its second highest annual revenue in its history. Unfortunately though, Cray finds itself in the midst of a lethargic supercomputing market, which has shown few signs of improving.
While US-based firms such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft still dominate the artificial intelligence space, Chinese counterparts like Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba are quickly catching up, and in some cases, surpassing their US competition. As a consequence, China appears to be on a path to reproduce its success in supercomputing in AI.
Leaders of some of the largest technology companies in the world spoke out against the Trump administration’s executive order to bar the entry of individuals from seven countries into the US. The order signed last Friday would temporarily prevent citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya from entering the country whether or not they had the requisite documentation.
The introduction of NVIDIA’s Volta GPU architecture is being keenly anticipated by the supercomputing community. As we reported last July, when the rumors of an earlier-than-anticipated Volta release were bouncing around the internet, a 2017 launch of the next-generation Tesla GPUs seems all but certain. The latest speculation is that these first Volta parts will be based on a new 12nm FinFET technology recently devised by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).
China is developing a new supercomputer designed to be “a prototype of an exascale computer.” Although the country is not expected to the field its first exascale machine until 2020, the prototype is scheduled to boot up before the end of this year. Most likely, the system in question is the infamous Tianhe-2A supercomputer.
Cray is going to build what will looks to be the world’s first ARM-based supercomputer. The system, known as “Isambard,” will be the basis of a new UK-based HPC service that will offer the machine as a platform to support scientific research and to evaluate ARM technologies for high performance computing. Installation of Isambard is scheduled to begin in March and be up and running before the end of the year.
The release date for AMD’s Zen-based “Naples” CPU is still a few months away, but details about the new high performance server chip are already leaking into the public domain. Some of these specs are available in a recent report published at WCCFtech. Although much remains to be revealed, Naples is shaping up to be the first credible Xeon competitor that Intel has encountered in several years.
Like many tech companies, IBM is starting the new year by making a few predictions. One of them has to do with a software concept they call a “macroscope,” a software technology that can be used to analyze the complexities of the physical world. IBM predicts that within five years, such technology will “help us understand the Earth’s complexity in infinite detail.”
In June 2016, China leapfrogged the HPC competition with its 93-petaflop Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer. Then in November it reached parity with the US on the TOP500 list in total number of systems and aggregate performance. But China’s supercomputing capabilities are in many respects still a work in progress.
As societies grapple with the initial deployments of artificial intelligence, governments are beginning to outline policy approaches to deal with the inevitable consequences – both positive and negative. In a report issued last month by President Obama’s executive office, the outgoing administration sets some broad public policy prescriptions on how the US government should respond to the disruption that AI is poised to bring to the economy.