[AMBER] Possible concerns regarding future availability of cost effective NVIDIA GPU systems for running AMBER

From: Ross Walker <ross.rosswalker.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2017 14:57:47 -0400

Dear All,

In the spirit of open discussion I want to bring the AMBER community's attention to a concern raised in two recent news articles:

1) "Nvidia halts distribution partners from selling GeForce graphics cards to server, HPC sectors" - http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20171027PD200.html

2) "Nvidia is cracking down on servers powered by Geforce graphics cards" - https://www.pcgamesn.com/nvidia-geforce-server

I know many of you have benefitted greatly over the years from the GPU revolution that has transformed the field of Molecular Dynamics. A lot of the work in this field was provided by people volunteering their time and grew out of the idea that many of us could not have access to or could not afford supercomputers for MD. The underlying drive was to bring supercomputing performance to the 99% and thus greatly extend the amount and quality of science each of us could do. For AMBER this meant supporting all three models of NVIDIA graphics card, Geforce, Quadro and Tesla in whatever format or combination, you the scientist and customer, wanted.

In my opinion key to AMBER's success was the idea that, for running MD simulations, very few people in the academic field, and indeed many R&D groups within companies, small or large, could afford the high end tesla systems, whose price has been steadily going up substantially above inflation with each new generation (for example the $149K DGX-1). The understanding, both mine and that of the field in general, has essentially always been that assuming one was willing to accept the risks on reliability etc, use of Geforce cards should be perfectly reasonable. We are not after all running US air traffic control, or some other equally critical system. It is prudent use of limited R&D funds, or in many cases tax payer money and we are the customers after all so should be free to choose the hardware we buy. NVIDIA has fought a number of us for many years on this front but mostly in a passive aggressive stance with the occasional personal insult or threat. As highlighted in the above articles with the latest AI bu
bble they have cemented a worrying monopoly and are now getting substantially more aggressive, using this monopoly to pressure suppliers to try to effectively ban the use of Geforce cards for scientific compute and restrict what we can buy to Tesla cards, that for the vast majority of us are simply out of our price range.

In my opinion this a very worrying trend that could hurt us all and have serious repercussions on all of our scientific productivities and the field in general. If this is a concern to you too I would encourage each of you to speak up. Contact people you know at NVIDIA and make your concerns heard. I am concerned that if we as a community do not speak up now we could see our field be completely priced out of the ability to make use of GPUs for MD over the next year.

All the best

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Received on Mon Oct 30 2017 - 12:00:02 PDT
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