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The US may have just pulled even with China in the race to build supercomputing’s next big thing

3 min read

There was much celebrating in America last month when the US Department of Energy unveiled Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer. Now the race is on to achieve the next significant milestone in processing power: exascale computing.

This involves building a machine within the next few years that’s capable of a billion billion calculations per second, or one exaflop, which would make it five times faster than Summit (see chart). Every person on Earth would have to do a calculation every second of every day for just over four years to match what an exascale machine will be able to do in a flash.

The US may have just pulled even with China in the race to build supercomputing’s next big thing

Top500 / MIT Technology Review

This phenomenal power will enable researchers to run massively complex simulations that spark advances in many fields, from climate science to genomics, renewable energy, and artificial intelligence. “Exascale computers are powerful scientific instruments, much like [particle] colliders or giant telescopes,” says Jack Dongarra, a supercomputing expert at the University of Tennessee.

The machines will also be useful in industry, where they will be used for things like speeding up product design and identifying new materials. The military and intelligence agencies will be keen to get their hands on the computers, which will be used for national security applications, too.

The race to hit the exascale milestone is part of a burgeoning competition for technological leadership between China and the US. (Japan and Europe are also working on their own computers; the Japanese hope to have a machine running in 2021 and the Europeans in 2023.)

In 2015, China unveiled a plan to produce an exascale machine by the end of 2020, and multiple reports over the past year or so have suggested it’s on track to achieve its ambitious goal. But in an interview with MIT Technology Review, Depei Qian, a professor at  Beihang University in Beijing who helps manage the country’s exascale effort, explained it could fall behind schedule. “I don’t know if we can still make it by the end of 2020,” he said. “There may be a year or half a year’s delay.”

Teams in China have been working on three prototype exascale machines, two of which use homegrown chips derived from work on existing supercomputers the country has developed. The third uses licensed processor technology. Qian says that the pros and cons of each approach are still being evaluated, and that a call for proposals to build a fully functioning exascale computer has been pushed back.

Given the huge challenges involved in creating such a powerful computer, timetables can easily slip, which could make an opening for the US. China’s initial goal forced the American government to accelerate its own road map and commit to delivering its first exascale computer in 2021, two years ahead of its original target. The American machine, called Aurora, is being developed for the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Supercomputing company Cray is building the system for Argonne, and Intel is making chips for the machine.

To boost supercomputers’ performance, engineers working on exascale systems around the world are using parallelism, which involves packing many thousands of chips into millions of processing units known as cores. Finding the best way to get all these to work in harmony requires time-consuming experimentation.

Moving data between processors, and into and out of storage, also soaks up a lot of energy, which means the cost of operating a machine over its lifetime can exceed the cost of building it. The DoE has set an upper limit of 40 megawatts of power for an exascale computer, which would roughly translate into an electricity budget of $40 million a year.

To lower power consumption, engineers are placing three-dimensional stacks of memory chips as close as possible to compute cores to reduce the distance data has to travel, explains Steve Scott, the chief technology officer of Cray. And they’re increasingly using flash memory, which uses less power than alternative systems such as disk storage. Reducing these power needs makes it cheaper to store data at various points during a calculation, and that saved data can help an exascale machine recover quickly if a glitch occurs.

Such advances have helped the team behind Aurora. “We’re confident of [our] ability to deliver it in 2021,” says Scott.

More US machines will follow. In April the DoE announced a request for proposals worth up to $1.8 billion for two more exascale computers to come online between 2021 and 2023. These are expected to cost $400 million to $600 million each, with the remaining money being used to upgrade Aurora or even create a follow-on machine.

Both China and America are also funding work on software for exascale machines. China reportedly has teams working on some 15 application areas, while in the US, teams are working on 25, including applications in fields such as astrophysics and materials science. “Our goal is to deliver as many breakthroughs as possible,” says Katherine Yelick, the associate director for computing sciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who is part of the leadership team coordinating the US initiative.

While there’s plenty of national pride wrapped up in the race to get to exascale first, the work Yelick and other researchers are doing is a reminder that raw exascale computing power isn’t the true test of success here; what really matters is how well it’s harnessed to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

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Data breach exposes trade secrets of carmakers GM, Ford, Tesla, Toyota – TechCrunch

1 min read

Data breach exposes trade secrets of carmakers GM, Ford, Tesla, Toyota – TechCrunch

Security researcher UpGuard Cyber Risk disclosed Friday that sensitive documents from more than 100 manufacturing companies, including GM, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Tesla, Toyota, ThyssenKrupp, and VW were exposed on a publicly accessible server belonging to Level One Robotics.

The exposure via Level One Robotics, which provides industrial automation services, came through rsync, a common file transfer protocol that’s used to backup large data sets, according to UpGuard Cyber Risk. The data breach was first reported by the New York Times.

According to the security researchers, restrictions weren’t placed on the rsync server. This means that any rsync client that connected to the rsync port had access to download this data. UpGuard Cyber Risk published its account of how it discovered the data breach to show how a company within a supply chain can affect large companies with seemingly tight security protocols.

This means if someone knew where to look they could access trade secrets closely protected by automakers. It’s unclear if any nefarious actors actually got their hands on the data. At least one source at an affected automaker told TechCrunch it doesn’t not appear that sensitive or proprietary data was exposed.

UpGuard’s big takeaway in all of this: rsync instances should be restricted by IP address. The researchers also suggest that user access to rsync be set up so that clients have to authenticate before receiving the dataset. Without these measures, rsync is publicly accessible, the researchers said.

The breach exposed 157 gigabytes of data—a treasure trove of 10 years of assembly line schematics, factory floor plans and layouts, robotic configurations and documentation, ID badge request forms, VPN access request forms. The breach even included sensitive non-disclose agreements, including one from Tesla.

Personal details of some Level One employees, including scans of driver’s licenses and passports, and Level One business data, including invoices, contracts, and bank account details.

The security team discovered the breach July 1. The company successfully reached Level One by July 9 and the exposure was closed by the following day.

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Pitch your startup to snag €3 million in TV advertising

2 min read

Presented by SevenVentures


Taking your product to market is the easy part. Building a leading brand separates the weak from the strong.

SevenVentures, a TV media investor and an investment arm of Europe’s largest broadcaster, ProSiebenSat.1 Group, is devoted to creating the next generation of market leaders by helping growth companies scale quickly using TV advertising.

And now the company is announcing that applications are open for their eighth annual SevenVentures Pitch Day (7VPD). They’re looking for the most innovative B2C startups, ready to establish themselves and grow in Germany. They’ll be pitching for the chance to win €3 million in TV advertising in this fast-growing market.

The 7VPD prize

7VPD will take place at the DMEXCO conference in Cologne, Germany on September 12, 2018, where four finalists who want to grow their brands in Germany will present their concepts to a jury of industry experts and entrepreneurs. One lucky winning startup will scoop €3 million in German TV advertising, €200k in online advertising, €30k for the creation of their own TV spot, and a mentoring program from Proctor and Gamble. According to Forbes Magazine, it’s one of the most valuable venture capital prizes in the world.

The hot German market

Germany is a hot and growing market for international companies. With more than 40 million financially solvent households and a gross domestic product (GDP) worth more than €3.7 billion, Germany is the leading EU economy, accounting for over a fifth (21.1 percent) of EU GDP.

From a launchpad in Germany, companies can also easily expand into Austria, Switzerland, and beyond. A local partner like SevenVentures can help international companies navigate these new waters.

Who can apply?

The competition is aimed at the most innovative and creative companies in the B2C space who have a unique physical or digital product, want to scale quickly, and are at the right stage of development to benefit from TV advertising power. Both German companies and international companies that are not yet active in the German market are eligible to participate.

Want to leave the competition behind? Then apply for 7VPD by August 22nd, 2018 for a chance to win over €3 million in advertising budget. 

2018 7VPD jury

The 7VPD offers a jury of industry experts:

  • Michael Stich is an entrepreneur, founder, and a former professional tennis player who counts the Wimbledon Men’s Single and Doubles titles and Olympic Men’s Doubles among his many sporting achievements.
  • Astrid Teckentrup has been vice president of sales at Proctor & Gamble DACH, one of the largest markets for P&G worldwide, since 2015. On a global level, she is responsible for a major global customer.
  • Florian Pauthner & Eun-Kyung Park will team up for the third jury spot: Eun-Kyung is managing director of SevenVentures, and since 2009 has held many executive positions at the ProSiebenSat.1 Group, including for ProSiebenSat.1 Digital (Video), TV channel six, and managing director of SevenOne Adfactory. Florian is managing director of SevenVentures and previously enjoyed a longstanding career as an investment expert as former SevenVentures’ CFO, and in M&A for one of the biggest financial institutions in Northern Europe and at a leading management consultancy.

Presenter Steven Gätjen will accompany the participants, jury, and audience through the hour-long program.

Apply for 7VPD by August 22nd, 2018 for the chance to win over €3 million in advertising spend.

DMEXCO: for key players in digital, marketing, and innovation: Bringing together 40,000 visitors, 1,100 exhibitors, and 500 speakers from around the world for a one-of-a-kind event each year in Cologne, DMEXCO (Digital Marketing and Expo Conference) has set the standard as the place for business minds to learn and inspire, build connections, and for ideas to become actions.


Sponsored posts are content produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. Content produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact [email protected].

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Open sourcing quantum: Get ready to help build a new future

0 min read

Jay Gambetta is a fellow at IBM, where he has contributed to the work on quantum validation techniques, quantum codes, improved gates and coherence, near-term applications of quantum computing, the IBM Quantum Experience, and the Qiskit open source framework and leads IBM’s quantum theory, software, and applications group. Previously, he worked at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Canada and was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. A quantum information scientist researching in the field of quantum information and computation, Jay h…

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