Data-Hungry Algorithms and the Thirst for AI

By Tiffany Trader

March 29, 2017

At Tabor Communications’ Leverage Big Data + EnterpriseHPC Summit in Florida last week, esteemed HPC professional Jay Boisseau, chief HPC technology strategist at Dell EMC, engaged the audience with his presentation, “Big Computing, Big Data, Big Trends, Big Results.”

Trends around big computing and big data are converging in powerful ways, including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning. Innovating and competing is now about big, scalable computing and big, fast data analytics – and “those with the tools and talent will reap the big rewards,” Boisseau expressed.

Prior to joining Dell EMC (then Dell Inc.) in 2014, Boisseau made his mark as the founding director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). Under his leadership the site became a center of HPC innovation, a legacy that continues today under Director Dan Stanzione.

Jay Boisseau

“I’m an HPC person who’s fascinated by the possibilities of augmenting intelligence with deep learning techniques; I’ve drunk the ‘deep learning Kool-Aid,’” Boisseau told the crowd of advanced computing professionals.

AI as a field goes back to the 50s, Boisseau noted, but the current proliferation of deep learning using deep neural networks has been made possible by three advances: “One is that we actually have big data; these deep learning algorithms are data hungry. Whereas we sometimes lament the growth of our data sizes, these deep neural networks are useless on small data. Use other techniques if you have small data, but if you have massive data and you want to draw insights that you’re not even sure how to formulate the hypothesis ahead of time, these neural network based methods can be really really powerful.

“Parallelizing the deep learning algorithms was another one of the advances, and having sufficiently powerful processors is another one,” Boisseau said.

AI, big data, cloud and deep learning are all intertwined and they are driving rapid expansion of the market for HPC-class hardware. Boisseau mines for correlations with the aid of Google Trends; the fun-to-play-with Google tool elucidates the contemporaneous rise of big data, deep learning, and IoT. Boisseau goes a step a further showing how Nvidia stock floats up on these tech trends.

The narrow point here is that deep learning/big data is an engine for GPU sales; the larger point is that these multiple related trends are driving silicon specialization and impacting market dynamics. As Boisseau points out, we’re only at the beginning of this trend cluster and we’re seeing silicon developed specifically for AI workloads as hardware vendors compete to establish themselves as the incumbent in this emerging field.

Another deep learning champion Nvidia CEO Jen Hsun Huang refers to machine learning as HPC’s consumer first killer app. When Nvidia’s CUDA-based ecosystem for HPC application acceleration launched in 2006, it kick started an era of heterogeneity in HPC (we’ll give the IBM-Sony Cell BE processor some cred here too even if the processor design was an evolutionary dead end). Fast forward to 2013-2014 and the emerging deep learning community found a friend in GPUs. With Nvidia, they could get their foot in the DL door with an economical gaming board and work their way up the chain to server-class Tesla GPUs, for max bandwidth and FLOPS.

Optimizations for single-precision (32-bit) processing, and support for half-precision (16-bit) on Nvidia’s newer GPUs, translates into faster computation for most AI workloads, which unlike many traditional HPC applications do not require full 64-bit precision. Intel is incorporating variable precision compute into its next-gen Phi product, the Knights Mill processor (due out this year).

Boisseau observed that starting about two decades ago HPC began the swing towards commodity architectures, with the invention of commodity-grade Beowulf clusters by Thomas Sterling in 1994. Benefiting from PC-based economies of scale, these x86 server-based Linux clusters became the dominant architecture in HPC. In turn, this spurred the movement toward broader enterprise adoption of HPC.

Although Xeon-flavored x86 is something of a de facto standard in HPC (with > 90 percent share), the pendulum appears headed back toward greater specialization and greater “disaggregation of technology,” to use a phrase offered by industry analyst Addison Snell (CEO, Intersect360 Research). Examples include IBM’s OpenPower systems; GPU-accelerated computing (and Power+GPU); ARM (now in server variants with HPC optimizations); AMD’s Zen/Ryzen CPU; and Intel’s Xeon Phi line (also its Altera FPGAs and imminent Xeon Skylake).

A major driver of all this: a gathering profusion of data.

“In short, HPC may be getting diverse again, but much of the forcing function is big data,” Boisseau observed. “Very simply, we used to have no digital data, then a trickle, but the ubiquity of computers, mobile devices, sensors, instruments and user/producers has produced an avalanche of data.”

Buzz terminology aside, big data is a fact of life now, “a forever reality” and those who can use big data effectively (or just “data” if the “big” tag drops off), will be in a position to out-compete, Boisseau added.

When data is your pinnacle directive and prime advantage, opportunity accrues to whoever holds the data, and that would be the hyperscalers, said Boisseau. Google, Facebook, Amazon, et al. are investing heavily in AI, amassing AI-friendly hardware like GPUs but also innovating ahead with even more efficient AI hardware (e.g., Tensor Processing Units at Google, FPGAs at Microsoft). On the tool side are about a dozen popular frameworks; TensorFlow (Google), mxnet (Amazon), and CNTK (Microsoft) among them.

Tech giants are advancing quickly too with AI strategies, Boisseau noted. Intel has made a quick succession of acquisitions (Nervana, Movidius, Saffron, MobilEye); IBM’s got its acquisition-enhanced Watson; Apple bought Turi.

“You [also] have companies like GraphCore, Wave Computing, and KnuPath that are designing special silicon with lower precision and higher performance,” said Boisseau. “There was a fourth one, Nervana, and Intel liked that company so much they bought it. So there were at least four companies making silicon dedicated to deep learning. I’m really eager to see if Nvidia – and I don’t have inside knowledge on this – further optimizes their technology for deep learning and removes some of the circuitry that’s still heritage graphics oriented as well as how the special silicon providers do competing against Intel and Nvidia as well as how Intel’s Nervana shapes up.”

Adding to the cloud/hyperscaler mix is the quickly expanding world of IoT, which is driving big data. The Internet of Things is enabling companies to operate more efficiently; it’s facilitating smart buildings, smart manufacturing, and smart products, said Boisseau. But as the spate of high-profile DDoS attacks attest, there’s a troubling security gap. The biggest challenge for IoT is “security, security, security,” Boisseau emphasized.

Another top-level point Boisseau made is that over half of HPC systems are now sold to industry, notably across manufacturing, financial services, life sciences, energy, EDA, weather and digital content creation. “Big computing is now as fundamental to many industries as it is in research,” Boisseau said. Half of the high performance computing TAM (total addressable market), estimated at nearly $30 billion, is now in enterprise/industry, and there’s still a lot of untapped potential, in Boisseau’s opinion.

Market projections for AI are even steeper. Research houses are predicting that AI will grow to tens of billions of dollars a year (IDC predicts a surge past $4 billion in 2020; IBM expects market to be $2 trillion over next decade; Tractica plots $36.8 billion in revenue by 2025).

Boisseau is confident that the world needs big data AND deep learning, citing the following reasons/scenarios:

  • Innovation requires ever more capability: to design, engineer, manufacture, distribute, market and produce new/better products and services.
  • Modeling and simulation enable design, in accordance with physics/natural laws, and virtual engineering, manufacturing, testing.
  • Machine learning and deep learning enable discovery and innovation
    • When laws of nature don’t apply (social media, sentiment, etc.) or are non-linear/difficult to simulate accurately over time (e.g. weather forecasting).
    • That may be quicker and/or less costly depending on simulation scale, complexity versus data completeness.

“When we understand the laws of nature, when we understand the equations, it gives us an ability to model and simulate highly accurately,” said Boisseau. “But for crash simulations, we still don’t want to drive a car that’s designed with data analysis; we need modeling and simulation to truly understand structural dynamics and fluid flow and even then data analysis can be used in the interpretation.

“There will be times where data mining over all those crash simulations adds to the modeling and simulation accuracy. So modeling and simulation will always remain important, at least as long as the universe is governed by visible laws, especially in virtual engineering and manufacturing testing, but machine learning and deep learning enable discovery in other ways, especially when the laws of nature don’t apply.”

“If you’ve adopted HPC great, but deep learning is next,” Boisseau told the audience. “It might not be next year for some of you, it might be two years, five years, but I suspect it’s sooner than you think.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

RPI Powers Up ‘AiMOS’ AI Supercomputer

December 11, 2019

Designed to push the frontiers of computing chip and systems performance optimized for AI workloads, an 8 petaflops (Linpack) IBM Power9-based supercomputer has been unveiled in upstate New York that will be used by IBM Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Developing a Digital Twin

December 11, 2019

In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location to location. In such a world, there will also be a digita Read more…

By Aaron Dubrow

Supercomputers Help Predict Carbon Dioxide Levels

December 10, 2019

The Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems – its lands, forests, jungles and so on – are crucial “sinks” for atmospheric carbon, holding nearly 30 percent of our annual CO2 emissions as they breathe in the carbon-rich Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Finally! SC19 Competitors Live and in Color!

December 10, 2019

You know the saying “better late than never”? That’s how my cluster competition coverage is faring this year. With SC19 coming late in November, quickly followed by my annual trip to South Africa to cover their clu Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel’s Jim Clarke on its New Cryo-controller and why Intel isn’t Late to the Quantum Party

December 9, 2019

Intel today introduced the ‘first-of-its-kind’ cryo-controller chip for quantum computing and previewed a cryo-prober tool for characterizing quantum processor chips. The new controller is a mixed-signal SoC named Ho Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

GPU Scheduling and Resource Accounting: The Key to an Efficient AI Data Center

[Connect with LSF users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community!]

GPUs are the new CPUs

GPUs have become a staple technology in modern HPC and AI data centers. Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Natural Gas, Precision Agriculture, Neural Networks and More

December 6, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

RPI Powers Up ‘AiMOS’ AI Supercomputer

December 11, 2019

Designed to push the frontiers of computing chip and systems performance optimized for AI workloads, an 8 petaflops (Linpack) IBM Power9-based supercomputer has Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel’s Jim Clarke on its New Cryo-controller and why Intel isn’t Late to the Quantum Party

December 9, 2019

Intel today introduced the ‘first-of-its-kind’ cryo-controller chip for quantum computing and previewed a cryo-prober tool for characterizing quantum proces Read more…

By John Russell

On the Spack Track @SC19

December 5, 2019

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC19 in Denver, Colorado, there were Spack events each day of the conference. As a reflection of its grassroots heritage, nine sessions were planned by more than a dozen thought leaders from seven organizations, including three U.S. national Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and Sylabs... Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Debuts 7nm 2nd-Gen Graviton Arm Processor

December 3, 2019

The “x86 Big Bang,” in which market dominance of the venerable Intel CPU has exploded into fragments of processor options suited to varying workloads, has n Read more…

By Doug Black

Ride on the Wild Side – Squyres SC19 Mars Rovers Keynote

December 2, 2019

Reminding us of the deep and enabling connection between HPC and modern science is an important part of the SC Conference mission. And yes, HPC is a science its Read more…

By John Russell

NSCI Update – Adapting to a Changing Landscape

December 2, 2019

It was November of 2017 when we last visited the topic of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). As you will recall, the NSCI was started with an Executive Order (E.O. No. 13702), that was issued by President Obama in July of 2015 and was followed by a Strategic Plan that was released in July of 2016. The question for November of 2017... Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Tsinghua University Racks Up Its Ninth Student Cluster Championship Win at SC19

November 27, 2019

Tsinghua University has done it again. At SC19 last week, the eight-time gold medal-winner team took home the top prize in the 2019 Student Cluster Competition Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
CEJN
CJEN
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cerebras to Supply DOE with Wafer-Scale AI Supercomputing Technology

September 17, 2019

Cerebras Systems, which debuted its wafer-scale AI silicon at Hot Chips last month, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a larger collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This