AMD opens wallet to lure scientific computing boffins away from Nvidia's CUDA onto its Instinct accelerators

Only academics, researchers, nonprofits need apply to AIER initiative

AMD has rolled out a programme that it hopes will tempt scientific computing types away from Nvidia and the CUDA ecosystem and onto its own Instinct accelerator range and ROCm run-anywhere software platform: the AMD Instinct Education and Research (AIER) initiative.

"At AMD, we're committed to engineering the best products and tools to make that happen – and the new AMD Instinct Education and Research (AIER) initiative makes those innovations easy to access," claimed AMD senior product marketing manager Guy Ludden of the programme's launch.

"If you're looking for ways to solve big challenges, make discoveries, analyse more data, or make better decisions faster, taking part in the AIER Initiative can give you access to the resources you need to get the job done."

Unveiled at the ISC HPC 2021 conference this week, AIER is aimed at convincing academics to jump across to AMD's high-performance computing product lines. Membership is free, but limited: only "academics, researchers, and scientists working at higher education universities or institutions, along with non-profit organisations" are invited.

The initiative appears positioned to pull users away from rival Nvidia's CUDA platform for general-purpose GPU offload and towards AMD's Instinct family of GPU-based accelerators. Back in November, AMD launched the Instinct MI100 accelerator, described by corporate VP Brad McCredie as "designed to provide scientists and researchers a superior foundation for their work in HPC."

While McCredie didn't specifically name Nvidia as the inferior foundation, some have inferred it.

Once approved for the AEIR initiative, members receive access to a range of support services from code validation and certification through to community-driven support forums, workload containers, and tutorial walkthroughs demonstrating just how to get started with what will be for most an unfamiliar environment.

There's one resource that may tempt interested parties into signing up more than the others, however: cold hard cash. In an apparent indication that AMD is putting its money where its mouth is to take on Nvidia in the high-performance computing arena, the AIER initiative documentation included the promise that "AMD often provides grants and/or hardware discounts for our academic and research colleagues" – though stopped short of promising payouts for members.

"High performance computing is critical to addressing the world's biggest and most important challenges," crowed AMD's senior VP Forrest Norrod in a canned statement.

"With our AMD Epyc processor family and Instinct accelerators, AMD continues to be the partner of choice for HPC. We are committed to enabling the performance and capabilities needed to advance scientific discoveries, break the exascale barrier, and continue driving innovation."

The announcement came as AMD celebrated an increasing presence in the TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers, with its processors driving five times more systems than at this time last year – though it still powers less than 10 per cent of the listed systems, compared to rival Intel's 86.2 per cent.

Interested parties can find out more about the AIER initiative, which has Dell, Gigabyte, HPE, and Supermicro as its industry partners, here. ®

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Japan, Singapore, perhaps the whole world.... Get ready for robot waiters from Softbank and Keenon

Automation is the answer to labor shortages, social distancing, apparently

SoftBank Robotics (SBRG) and China's Keenon Robotics are teaming up to make robot waiters the norm in Japan and Singapore, both companies announced on Monday.

Or “SBRG and Keenon Robotics will work together to expand the use of robotics systems in the service industry that will allow better efficiency and productivity,” as the pair put it in a canned statement.

While the bots won’t fully replace staff, the machines – which apparently can deliver up to four dishes at once – will assist their humans in carrying out food, thus freeing up staff to focus on customer service, the duo insisted.

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Break out your emergency change process and patch this ransomware-friendly bug ASAP, says VMware

File upload vuln lets miscreants hijack vCenter Server

VMware has disclosed a critical bug in its flagship vSphere and vCenter products and urged users to drop everything and patch it. The virtualization giant also offered a workaround.

The bug is one of 19 disclosed today by VMware. The worst of the bunch is CVE-2021-22005, described as "an arbitrary file upload vulnerability in the Analytics service" that's part of vCenter Server. The flaw is rated 9.8/10 in severity using the Common Vulnerability Scoring System.

"A malicious actor with network access to port 443 on vCenter Server may exploit this issue to execute code on vCenter Server by uploading a specially crafted file," states VMware's advisory.

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Database containing personal info on 106m people who traveled to Thailand found open to the internet – report

Misconfigured Elasticsearch server blamed

A database containing personal information on 106 million international travelers to Thailand was exposed to the public internet this year, a Brit biz claimed this week.

Bob Diachenko, head of cybersecurity research at product-comparison website Comparitech, said the Elasticsearch data store contained visitors' full names, passport numbers, arrival dates, visa types, residency status, and more. It was indexed by search engine Censys on August 20, and spotted by Diachenko two days later. There were no credentials in the database, which is said to have held records dating back a decade.

“There are many people who would prefer their travel history and residency status not be publicized, so for them there are obvious privacy issues,” wrote Comparitech editor Paul Bischoff on the company’s blog.

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Now America's financial watchdog probes 'frat house' Activision Blizzard

Plus: Chief Legal Officer exits as court battles loom

The SEC has launched an investigation into Activision Blizzard, and has subpoenaed several current and former employees, including CEO Bobby Kotick, the California games giant confirmed on Tuesday.

Activision has been hit with separate lawsuits from its home state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the federal government’s National Labor Relations Board. That first one, filed in July, accused the company of fostering a "frat boy" culture that led to lower pay for female employees, sex and race discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Staff publicly spoke out against the Activision on social media and urged executives to enforce new policies, such as being transparent about salaries. They claim in the second lawsuit that they were intimidated by bosses, and attempts at forming a union were thwarted.

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Suex to be you: Feds sanction cryptocurrency exchange for handling payments from 8+ ransomware variants

Russia-based biz targeted in Uncle Sam's crack down on cyber-extortion

The US Treasury on Tuesday sanctioned virtual cryptocurrency exchange Suex OTC for handling financial transactions for ransomware operators, an intervention that's part of a broad US government effort to disrupt online extortion and related cyber-crime.

Suex is registered in the Czech Republic but operates out of offices in Russia. According to the US Treasury, more than 40 per cent of the firm's known transaction history involves illicit entities, and that it handled payments from at least eight ransomware variants.

Crypto-coin forensics outfit Chainalysis claims Suex has received more than $160m in Bitcoin since 2018 from ransomware and other illicit operations. As such, the Treasure Department has determined that the firm provides material support to cybercriminals and has added Suex to its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated entities list.

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SEC takes legal action after crowdfunded marijuana investment scheme appears to go up in smoke

Platform and individuals charged in first case of its kind

US financial watchdogs have launched legal action against a cannabis-related investment scheme said to be the first case involving crowdfunding regulation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against three people – named as Robert Shumake Jr, Willard Jackson, and Nicole Birch – and Texan firm 420 Real Estate in the Eastern District court in Michigan, claiming the trio had been involved in selling nearly $2m in unregistered securities through two crowdfunding schemes.

The SEC also charged the registered funding portal that hosted the offerings – TruCrowd – and its CEO Vicent Petrescu (name spelt as listed), with violating Section 4A(a)(5) of the Securities Act and violating crowdfunding rules, alleging they "served as gatekeepers and, as such, were responsible for taking measures to reduce the risk of fraud."

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Canonical gives administrators the chance to drag their feet a bit more on Ubuntu upgrades

Two more years! Two more years!

There was good news today for administrators looking nervously at their aging Ubuntu boxes. A few more years of support is now on offer as Canonical brings 14.04 and 16.04 LTS into the 10-year fold.

Users still running on 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr), released back in April 2014, now have until April 2024 (up from 2022) to make the move to something more recent. 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), which dropped into Extended Security Maintenance (ESM) in April this year, has had this extended from April 2024 to April 2026.

Ubuntu has been quietly updating its support and blog posts to reflect the change.

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US Congress ponders setting up permanent UFO investigation office

Nothing to do with little green men, mind, unless they can be defined as state or non-state actors

Two intelligence funding appropriation bills currently awaiting approval from the US Congress contain within them sections for the creation of a new office to investigate UFO sightings.

Interest in UFOs – known as UAPs or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in current US defence parlance – has increased over recent months following the preliminary release of an official US government report on UAP incidents in June this year [PDF].

The report was compiled by a Pentagon-mandated body known as the UAP Task Force after a number of videos featuring US Navy pilots intercepting unidentified objects were leaked in 2017, followed by a New York Times article in December of that year which revealed that the US Department of Defense's secret Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to investigate UAPs was still running, despite the Pentagon claiming it had been shut down in 2012.

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Open Source Jobs Report: Explosive cloud growth knocks Linux off top spot for desired skillsets

455% hike in demand for Kubernetes qualifications causes a stir

The Linux Foundation and edX's latest annual Open Source Jobs Report highlights an explosion of interest in cloud technologies that has bumped Linux off the skillset top spot for the first time.

"Much of the world is rebounding from the economically crippling lockdowns of COVID-19, and hiring people with the right skills is proving to be a challenge," Clyde Seepersad, senior veep and general manager for training and certification at the Linux Foundation, claimed in the report's introduction.

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JEDI contract might be no more, but case should live on, says Oracle: DoD only wants Amazon, Microsoft for new cloud deal

Just when you thought it was safe to get out of the courtroom

Oracle has asked the US Supreme court not to dismiss its case over the $10bn Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, despite the US Department of Defense officially axing the $10bn procurement deal.

"Cases do not become moot simply because a defendant issues a press release claiming to have ceased its misconduct," thundered Oracle in a supplemental brief [PDF] in its action against the DoD, Oracle America, Inc. vs United States, et al, filed last week.

"The government asserts that the Department of Defense mooted this case by cancelling JEDI, the procurement contract that Oracle has challenged," complained Big Red.

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Fivetran snags $565m funding round as Snowflake attempts to eat its lunch with in-house data integration tools

Also buys data replication company HVR for $700m

Automated data integration outfit Fivetran has confirmed a $565m funding round – valuing the company at $5.6bn, roughly the GDP of Montenegro.

Meanwhile, the 2013-founded company has used some of its startup capital and bought data replication firm HVR, which employs log-based change data capture (CDC) technology, in a cash-and-stock deal worth around $700m.

The investment arm of web pioneer Marc Andreessen (a16z) led the Fivetran funding round, which also included General Catalyst, CEAS Investments, and Matrix Partners, and takes the total startup capital to $730m to date.

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