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

From: Gerald Monard <>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2017 22:29:33 +0100


Just to add up to Ross' warning.

I've been discussing with Dell Computers in France for the recent
months. In our HPC centre, we want to buy Dell computers with GTX cards
to "attract" people who, most notably, run Amber, Gromacs, etc. on GPUs.
We also have NVIDIA's P100 with NVLink but we would like to encourage
people who don't need such double precision power (thanks for the SPFP
versioN!) to use cheaper and as efficient GTX cards.

Three information:
1) Dell does not officially support GTX cards on their HPC servers (and
has never had), but so far, you could buy them separately and plug them in.
2) with the new Dell generation (14G), it won't be even possible to plug
GTX cards in these servers (for those who are familiar with Dell
portfolio, I'm talking about R740 and T640). From what I've been told,
this is at NVIDIA's request. We are currently trying to buy some servers
from the previous generation (13G) while they are still available to be
able to plug whatever GTX card we could buy, but ("don't know why") my
Dell representatives are very slow to provide quotations.
3) At a recent Dell-Intel event in Europe, some Dell representative asks
the audience (mostly made from people in the academic HPC business) how
they feel about Dell portfolio. Very first comment/question from the
audience: "when will you finally support GTX cards in your server? They
are cheap, works fine for many purpose, professional cards are too
expensive", then all the audience nodded and said yes this is what we
would like to see. The Dell representative didn't (couldn't?) answer us.

I do agree with Ross' opinion, but the AI marked being so strong as the
moment and generating so much money for NVIDIA, I don't really know what
we can do about it.

Other comment: in my (small) university, some lab has started to buy GTX
cards by the dozens, especially those working in the molecular dynamics
fields (but not only). People know how terrific the numbers are with
Amber, Gromacs, etc and I guess that NVIDIA has started to realize that
a significant portion of its high-end GTX sales were not going to
gamers... .Ross, Scott et al.: your work on porting pmemd to cheap gpu
cards has been too terrific!


On 10/30/2017 07:57 PM, Ross Walker wrote:
> 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" -
> 2) "Nvidia is cracking down on servers powered by Geforce graphics cards" -
> 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 abo
> ve artic
> les with the latest AI bubble 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
> Ross
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Received on Mon Oct 30 2017 - 14:30:07 PDT
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