Everyone in Washington DC is indoors today because of the season’s first snow, or venturing only within an easy snow-shovel’s carry from the front door. DC always comes to a near-halt with even a dusting of snow, so with a foot or more last night and today, folks are immobile. Here are my photos of our snow fun today, and below to entertain the snowbound I have three separate videos of innovation from Intel, Microsoft, and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
In colder climates more accustomed to snowy weather, they’re used to those long days and nights indoors… and there they hatch some of the craziest ideas. Look what several folks from Intel’s Finland operation came up with: shooting themselves out of cannons in a coordinated pattern to create the world’s largest “Intel Chime” effect! Nutty, ingenious, and hilarious at the same time:
I think it’s funny that so many of the youTube comments on the video believe it was faked. In fact, Intel engineers are rewarded for thinking outside the box, like Intel Finland’s Martti Roth, whose grandfather lost his life in a human-cannonball venture and who came up with the cannon-chimes idea in a neat way 🙂
I wanted to put Intel Finland on the map. And I knew that everyone recognised the Intel chime. So one night I thought about the biggest, most exciting way we could create those five notes. And the longer I stayed in the bar, the more sense it made.” – Intel Field Engineer Martti Roth
By the way, Intel is now facing an FTC antitrust suit (see Washington Post, “U.S. files antitrust suit against Intel, alleges unfair tactics used against rivals“). Intel denies it, saying it has “competed fairly and lawfully” with its competitors, like AMD and Nvidia. The FTC might cite last month’s decision by Intel to pay $1.25 billion to rival AMD to drop antitrust and patent lawsuits. In any event, it’s one to follow; as the Post says, “the case could become a key test of antitrust law.”
Microsoft has long worked with Intel, among other chip manufacturers, and we continue to do that in new ways. Today, supercomputers and mega-data centers are made up of modular components. At Microsoft we already do it with large-scale data centers composed of modularized shipping containers, but at the low-power end our Cloud Computing Futures group within Microsoft Research has been experimenting with a small cloud computing server farm using arrays of low-power Intel Atom processors originally designed for use in netbooks. I saw these running at our internal TechFest earlier this year, and according to Microsoft Research, “These processors offer substantial fractions 33 percent to 50 percent of the performance of the high-performance processors used in Microsoft’s data centers but consume a disproportionally smaller amount of power, 5 percent to 10 percent.” They make for a greener data center. Here’s a quick intro to that approach:
But just to be fair, I’ll highlight an AMD innovation below. I don’t want my blog to come under antitrust scrutiny. 🙂 My friend and prolific blogger Bob Gourley worries about that happening to him.
Lobotomizing a Supercomputer to Upgrade It
One of my favorite films of all time is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. You’ll recall the scene near the end when astronaut Dave Bowman finally has to disable the HAL 9000, he goes right into HAL’s Logic Memory Center, and removes modular memory units one by one. As he does so, HAL spookily says, “My mind is going… it’s going….”
A recent article in Data Center Knowledge highlights a similar approach by Oak Ridge National Laboratory on their Kraken supercomputer – but with a different, more positive rationale. Kraken is a phenomenal machine resulting from great work by Cray, AMD, and Department of Energy Oak Ridge engineers, and ranks at #3 in the latest Top 500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. By design, its modular architecture takes advantage of multi-core processors, originally using quad-core AMD Opteron chips.
This final video shows (and explains) the upgrade process to implant new six-core Opterons, and features Al Enger from Cray, actually performing the HAL-like lobotomies and brain transplants:
All neat stuff, from Intel and AMD. Their robust competition is driving this unconventional thinking (take note, FTC lawyers). Expect more innovative work from those guys (and Microsoft).
One final quote from the nutty helmeted Intel Finland engineer Martti Roth, when asked if he had another crazy idea up his sleeve: “Well it’s early days, but I’ve been working on something. Another way of making the Intel chime! This time even bigger! It’s going to be pretty special if we get the insurance.”
Gotta admit I love it!
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