As the year draws to close, TOP500 News looks back at some of the most prominent trends of the past 12 months in the world of high performance computing. From machine learning to new processors to exascale, there were plenty of topics to hold our attention in 2016. Here are this year’s top five hits and misses:
Cray’s recent announcement about how its XC50 supercomputer plus Microsoft’s Cognitive Toolkit was used to scale up training of a neural network serves as a proof point on how topflight HPC technologies can be used to push the boundaries of deep learning. But the company’s long game is to bring supercomputing into the realm of deep learning and the broader category of data analytics in a more generalized fashion.
AMD has announced Radeon Instinct, a new line of GPUs aimed at accelerating machine learning applications in the datacenter. Designed to go up against the best NVIDIA can offer, the Instinct products deliver lots of performance and a number of high-end features. The products were unveiled at AMD Technology Summit, which took place last week.
The US Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has changed its timeline for getting the first post-petascale system into the field. The new goal is to get an initial exascale system deployed sometime in 2021, with acceptance nine months after that. That shrinks the schedule significantly and puts the country back on a more competitive trajectory with regard to China and Japan.
For anyone that hasn’t been hiding under a rock for the last few years, it’s become abundantly clear that the largest IT firms on the planet are moving quickly to build up their capabilities in artificial intelligence. But the largest of them all, Apple Inc., has been the least public about its plans. A revelation about a closed-door meeting in Europe suggests that might change.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise has demonstrated a prototype of “The Machine,” the company’s much talked about R&D project to develop a new computer architecture for the big data age. But rather than developing a reference platform for future systems, the effort has been refocused to develop a set of technologies that will be scattered across HPE’s product portfolio.
A couple of weeks ago, at SC16 in Salt Lake City, analyst firm IDC presented its bi-annual review of the latest trends in the HPC market. Overall, IDC is projecting annual growth of about 6 to 7 percent in 2016, which would put total HPC revenue at around $24.6 billion dollars for the year.
The Tokyo-based National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) is taking bids for a new supercomputer that will deliver more than 130 half precision petaflops when completed in late 2017. The system, known as the AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI), is mainly being built for artificial intelligence developers and providers, and will be made available as a cloud resource to researchers and commercial organizations.
At Intel’s recent AI Day, the chipmaker previewed a series of future products that it intends to use to unseat GPUs as the de facto standard for machine learning. The one-day event was Intel’s most assertive pronouncement of its intentions to become a major player in the artificial intelligence market.
The new Green500 list of the most energy-efficient supercomputers demonstrates some significant progress from last year. Thanks to the new manycore processors from Intel and NVIDIA that are starting to penetrate the top systems, performance per watt numbers are on the rise.