ARCHITECHT Daily: Nvidia's AI beast, Microsoft's global database, and China's OSS opportunity

Fair warning: This is going to be a big, Sunday-newspaper-size issue because it was a very busy week
ARCHITECHT
ARCHITECHT Daily: Nvidia's AI beast, Microsoft's global database, and China's OSS opportunity
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #74 • View online
Fair warning: This is going to be a big, Sunday-newspaper-size issue because it was a very busy week (five big conferences) and I gotten taken down by a bug (the microbiological kind) that resulted in me not publishing yesterday. Here we go!
Nvidia jacks up the performance
As soon as I published Wednesday’s newsletter asking how long Nvidia will dominate the market for machine learning hardware, I read the press release announcing its Volta-processor-based V100 GPU. According to Nvidia, the thing is a beast when it comes to performance, helped along by 640 “tensor cores” that are optimized for deep learning. According to an Nvidia benchmark, throughput on the Caffe2 deep learning framework increases by 2.5x using the V100 over the previous generation of Nvidia GPU.
Nvidia also made a number of other announcements, including some pricey desktop-sized “supercomputers” packed with GPUs; a partnership with Toyota on autonomous cars; and a game-showy award of $1.5 million in cash, split among six AI startups.
The V100, especially, will probably help cement Nvidia’s status in the machine learning and artificial intelligence space for a while longer as more workloads come online and big GPU buyers like Facebook refresh their gear. But as I’ve been saying for a while, and others are now pointing out, there’s lots of competition from Intel (although this “editorial” is, as the kids say, a little thirsty), cloud providers and startups alike. Fear not: we’re still in for a wild ride.
Microsoft and the movement toward cloud parity
I assume most readers have already gotten their fill of news from Microsoft Build, but let me recap some of the highlights just in case:
If you want an omnibus blog post highlighting more of the cloud- and data-center-focused announcements, check out this one from Azure boss Scott Guthrie. 
If there’s a high-level takeaway from what Microsoft announced, it’s that there probably will be no killer app among the big three cloud providers: all will eventually offer very similar core services around compute, storage, databases, AI, IoT, etc. Decisions on which cloud to go with will be made around the edges, which makes business decisions around things like price, security, risk-acceptance and target market much more important.
That being said, I do think Cosmos DB is pretty important because well, databases are still a very big deal (as you’ll see if you read the links below) and it serves as a reminder from Microsoft that it’s more than just “the cloud provider that knows the enterprise.” The company is also an innovation factory and has been building webscale systems for a long time. 
So while very few companies today are going to choose their cloud provider solely because of a somewhat futuristic database service (or any other single service)—whether that’s Cosmos DB, Google’s Cloud Spanner or whatever globally distributed service AWS is no doubt working on—they will take note. In a fight for mindshare, , especially developer mindshare, against Google and Amazon, Microsoft cannot afford to look like a technological laggard.
Open source: It’s big in China
Seriously. Watch this OSCON presentation from Ying Xiong of Huawei to get a sense of how big the OpenStack community there is. Or check out this Chinese startup called EasyStack, created by a team of former IBM China engineers, which just released a hybrid OpenStack-Kubernetes platform and in November raised a $50 million funding round.
Five years ago, I spent a couple weeks in Beijing speaking with startups and some investors, and was surprised to hear how hundreds or even thousands of people would show up for low-profile around projects like Hadoop or OpenStack. Chinese web companies, including Baidu, are some of the biggest users of technologies such as Spark and Mesos—we’re talking massive clusters, in some instances—even if they don’t get a lot of attention in the United States.
I don’t know that trying to capitalize on the Chinese opportunity is necessarily worth the risk for, say, American open source startups looking to boost revenue, but it’s certainly a topic worth paying more attention to for the open source community at large.

Sponsor: Cloudera
Sponsor: Cloudera
Listen to the latest ARCHITECHT Show episode
Speaking of innovation in cloud computing, the latest episode of the ARCHITECHT Show podcast features Google VP of Infrastructure, and CAP theorem mastermind, Eric Brewer. I haven’t been able to write up the highlights yet, but suffice it to say that he has a lot of interesting things to say about everything from Kubernetes to Spanner, and from Hadoop to TensorFlow.
Listen here:
Artificial intelligence
If there’s one area where I’m really skeptical about applying machine learning and AI, it’s to anything involving law enforcement or facial recognition beyond a very limited set of purposes. There are lots of reasons to bring more machines to policework or the courts, which have hardly been perfect over the years, but sometimes algorithms serve to exacerbate existing problems. Here are some more advances in those realms, for better or for worse:
Listen the the ARCHITECHT Show podcast. New episodes every Thursday!
Listen the the ARCHITECHT Show podcast. New episodes every Thursday!
Cloud and infrastructure
Building data centers is a still big, important business—especially for companies like Google and Facebook that drive outsized proportions of internet traffic. Data Center Knowledge has details on two new webscale facilities, and one very interesting colo facility:
Media partner: GeekWire
Media partner: GeekWire
All things data
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ARCHITECHT

ARCHITECHT delivers the most interesting news and information about the business impacts of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other trends reshaping enterprise IT. Curated by Derrick Harris.

Check out the Architecht site at https://architecht.io

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