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Home » Uncategorized » Skylake, Moore’s Law, and Dead Workstations

Skylake, Moore’s Law, and Dead Workstations


Mark Walton, ars technica,  Intel Skylake bug causes PCs to Freeze during complex workloads, here.

“Intel has identified an issue that potentially affects the 6th Gen Intel Core family of products. This issue only occurs under certain complex workload conditions, like those that may be encountered when running applications like Prime95. In those cases, the processor may hang or cause unpredictable system behaviour.”

Intel has developed a fix, and is working with hardware partners to distribute it via a BIOS update.

No reason has been given as to why the bug occurs, but it’s confirmed to affect both Linux and Windows-based systems. Prime95, which has historically been used to benchmark and stress-test computers, uses Fast Fourier Transforms to multiply extremely large numbers. A particular exponent size, 14,942,209, has been found to cause the system crashes.

Mark Settler and Shesha Krishnapura, HPCWire, Moore’s Law – Not Dead – and Intel’s USE of HPC to Keep it Alive, here. Maybe they’re gonna Reanimate it like the Dean in the movie Reanimator.

Until about ten years ago, transistor engineering was conceptually simpler: scale down essentially every aspect of the previous generation transistor, whose design features could all be represented in a simple 2D diagram (see below). Numerical simulation of the transistor, an important part of process development, could be readily achieved by breaking down the device into small silicon blocks and applying classical semiconductor physics. The computation could be run on a desk side workstation, which would crunch through the equations in minutes to hours. But as feature sizes have scaled down, we have had to use novel architectures, such as 3D transistors, and new materials with nanoscale dimensions to continue delivering device performance. These add a third dimension to the transistor representation and require more complicated physics, greatly increasing the complexity of the simulation.

Cringley, I, Cringley, 2016 Prediction #1  – Beginning of the end for engineering workstations, here.

Now to my first prediction for 2016 — the beginning of the end for engineering workstations. These high-end desktop computers used for computer-aided design, gene sequencing, desktop publishing, video editing and similar processor-intensive operations have been one of the few bright spots in a generally declining desktop computer market. HP is number one in the segment followed by Dell and Lenovo and while the segment only represents $25-30 billion in annual sales, for HP and Dell especially it represents some very reliable profits that are, alas, about to start going away, killed by the cloud.

A year ago the cloud (pick a cloud, any cloud) was all CPUs and no GPUs. And since engineering workstations have come to be highly dependent on GPUs, that meant the cloud was no threat. But that’s all changed. Amazon already claims to be able to support three million GPU workstation seats in its cloud and I suspect that next week at CES we’ll see AWS competitors like Microsoft and others announce significant cloud GPU investments for which they’ll want to find customers.

This change is going to happen because it helps the business interests of nearly all parties involved — workstation operators, software vendors, and cloud service providers. Even the workstation makers can find a way to squint and justify it since they all sell cloud hardware, too.



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