Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Having a slow connection is always frustrating, but just imagine how supercomputers feel. All those cores doing all kinds of processing at lightning speed, but in the end they’re all waiting on an outdated network interface to stay in sync. DARPA doesn’t like it. So DARPA wants to change it — specifically by making a new network interface a hundred times faster.

The problem is this. As DARPA estimates it, processors and memory on a computer or server can in a general sense work at a speed of roughly 10^14 bits per second — that’s comfortably into the terabit region — and networking hardware like switches and fiber are capable of about the same.

“The true bottleneck for processor throughput is the network interface used to connect a machine to an external network, such as an Ethernet, therefore severely limiting a processor’s data ingest capability,” explained DARPA’s Jonathan Smith in a news post by the agency about the project. (Emphasis mine.)

That network interface usually takes the form of a card (making it a NIC) and handles accepting data from the network and passing it on to the computer’s own systems, or vice versa. Unfortunately its performance is typically more in the gigabit range.

That delta between the NIC and the other components of the network means a fundamental limit in how quickly information can be shared between different computing units — like the hundreds or thousands of servers and GPUs that make up supercomputers and datacenters. The faster one unit can share its information with another, the faster they can move on to the next task.

Think of it like this: You run an apple farm, and every apple needs to be inspected and polished. You’ve got people inspecting apples and people polishing apples, and both can do 14 apples a minute. But the conveyor belts between the departments only carry 10 apples per minute. You can see how things would pile up, and how frustrating it would be for everyone involved!

With the FastNIC program, DARPA wants to “reinvent the network stack” and improve throughput by a factor of 100. After all, if they can crack this problem, their supercomputers will be at an immense advantage over others in the world, in particular those in China, which has vied with the U.S. in the high performance computing arena for years. But it’s not going to be easy.

“There is a lot of expense and complexity involved in building a network stack,” said Smith, the first of which will be physically redesigning the interface. “It starts with the hardware; if you cannot get that right, you are stuck. Software can’t make things faster than the physical layer will allow so we have to first change the physical layer.”

The other main part will, naturally, be redoing the software side to deal with the immense increase in the scale of the data the interface will have to handle. Even a 2x or 4x change would necessitate systematic improvements; 100x will involve pretty much a ground-up redo of the system.

The agency’s researchers — bolstered, of course, by any private industry folks who want to chip in, so to speak — aim to demonstrate a 10 terabit connection, though there’s no timeline just yet. But the good news for now is that all the software libraries created by FastNIC will be open source, so this standard won’t be limited to the Defense Department’s proprietary systems.

FastNIC is only just getting started, so forget about it for now and we’ll let you know when DARPA cracks the code in a year or three.


TechCrunch

A pair of digital news companies are teaming up, with PressReader acquiring News360.

PressReader was founded back in 1999 as Newspaper Direct. It now operates a platform that converts newspapers and magazines into digital formats, while offering a $ 29.99 monthly subscription that provides unlimited access to more than 7,000 of those titles.

News360, meanwhile, is relatively youthful, having been founded in 2010. It’s also created a news aggregation app, but the announcement makes it sound like PressReader was particularly interested in the company’s NativeAI technology for analytics and personalization.

In a statement, PressReader CEO Alex Kroogman suggested that News360’s technology will be used to improve PressReader’s consumer experience and publisher tools:

In a world where news fatigue is a real and growing problem, and media literacy a global concern, it’s more important than ever for people to have access to the trusted content they need in an engaging environment. By understanding each person’s interests, and building advanced data science systems around content analytics, we will be able to give our millions of readers the trusted media they want, how they want it, when they want it, and where they want it, while building more audience intelligence into the data that drives our publisher and brand partnerships.

The News360 team will be joining PressReader and working out of the acquiring company’s Vancouver headquarters.

News360 CEO Roman Karachinsky told me via email that the combined company will continue to support the News360 app and “develop it alongside the PressReader apps,” but he added, “In the short-term[,] the team will be focused on adding News360 tech into PressReader, so I wouldn’t expect big changes to the News360 app until we’re done with this.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, News360 has raised a total of $ 7.5 million from investors including Ordell Capital.


TechCrunch

Low code and no code are the latest industry buzzwords, but if vendors can truly abstract away the complexity of difficult tasks like building machine learning models, it could help mainstream technologies that are currently out of reach of most business users. That’s precisely what Microsoft is aiming to do with its latest Power BI platform announcements today.

The company tried to bring that low code simplicity to building applications last year when it announced PowerApps. Now it believes by combining PowerApps with Microsoft Flow and its new AI Builder tool, it can allow folks building apps with PowerApps to add a layer of intelligence very quickly.

It starts with having access to data sources, and the Data Connector tool gives users access to over 250 data connectors. That includes Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe, as well as of course Microsoft services like Office 365 and Dynamics 365. Richard Riley, senior director for Power Platform marketing, says this is the foundation for pulling data into AI Builder.

“AI Builder is all about making it just as easy in a low code, no code way to go bring artificial intelligence and machine learning into your Power Apps, into Microsoft Flow, into the Common Data Service, into your data connectors, and so on,” Riley told TechCrunch.

Screenshot: Microsoft

Charles Lamanna, general manager at Microsoft says that Microsoft can do all the analysis and heavy lifting required to build a data model for you, removing a huge barrier to entry for business users. “The basic idea is that you can select any field in the Common Data Service and just say, ‘I want to predict this field.’  Then we’ll actually go look at historical records for that same table or entity to go predict [the results],” he explained. This could be used to predict if a customer will sign up for a credit card, if a customer is likely to churn, or if a loan would be approved, and so forth.

While Microsoft admits this won’t be something everyone uses, they do see a kind of power user who might have been previously unable to approach this level of sophistication on their own, building apps and adding layers of intelligence without a heck of a lot of coding. If it works as advertised it will bring a level of simplicity to tasks that were previously well out of reach of business users without requiring a data scientist.


TechCrunch

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