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RISC-V boffins lay out a plan for bringing the architecture to high-performance computing • The Register

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RISC-V International, the nonprofit at the helm of the free and open-source CPU instruction set architecture, says it is writing a high-performance computing (HPC) roadmap of “new features and capabilities.”

For an architecture which only began life at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010, RISC-V has enjoyed considerable success.

A wealth of products based on RISC-V are already in the market, with more arriving regularly, but the majority of these, like Seagate’s storage processor designs and the OpenTitan root-of-trust (RoT), target embedded or otherwise less performance-critical applications.

RISC-V International, though, believes there are more strings to its bow. In an announcement from member Dr John D Davis, chair of the RISC-V Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing (SIG-HPC), it has set out its stall for taking over the performance end of the market.

“HPC is everywhere,” claimed Davis. “The basic algorithms and kernels power a wide range of computations. It starts in the traditional space of supercomputers used for weather forecasting, computational fluid dynamics, to material science, and protein folding, in both research and industrial applications. We even see HPC in the cloud.

“The SIG-HPC aims to enable all of those workloads and more. As a result, there are 141 members on the mailing list and 10 active research, academia, and industrial members from a wide range of organisations and these are growing exponentially. The group is united in making RISC-V an option in HPC. It also works with other technical groups in RISC-V to make sure HPC requirements are kept in mind for the evolving ISA.”

While not committing to a formal roadmap, merely confirming one is in the works, Davis has set out the goals the SIG-HPC is targeting for the year ahead – beginning with an effort to map the exiting HPC software ecosystem to RISC-V. “This,” he explained, “involves automation to discover which open source software, from libraries to benchmarks and applications, work out-of-the-box on the RISC-V ISA.

“Overall, SIG-HPC’s vision is that of a future where the entire HPC system can be based on open source components. Today’s technology trends require specialisation to meet the power and performance workload targets. This enables hardware-software co-design, which is a natural fit for open systems, enabling more research and development. The next major milestone for SIG-HPC is to map the HPC ecosystem and develop an associated roadmap.”

It’s not pie in the sky – back in 2019 Chinese tech giant Alibaba unveiled high-performance 16-core RISC-V chips for its cloud business. These, however, are proprietary, closed-source designs enabled by the permissive licensing behind the free and open-source RISC-V ISA itself, but of little use to a community looking to further the HPC effort.

That’s not to say others aren’t working on more open designs. In India the SHAKTI project, launched in 2014 by the Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems Engineering (RISE) Group of IIT-Madras, aims to produce open-source chip designs ranging from low-power E-Class parts for embedded machines up to H-Class for HPC – although it’s early days yet.

“It is a very interesting ambition of the RISC-V community, which highlights that RISC-V can be competitive even beyond embedded and single-board computers,” commented Philipp Wagner, director at the nonprofit FOSSi Foundation, which aims to build a community and ecosystem of free and open-source silicon including but not limited to RISC-V.

“There is a long road ahead, in particular for open-source silicon components to become integral parts of high-performance computing systems, and the creation of an enabling ecosystem is an important milestone.”

In the meantime, SIG-HPC is actively soliciting new members to assist in its efforts. Interested parties can join the discussion list by sending an email. ®

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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