Potential false economics in research

Article: Intel's Near-Threshold Voltage Computing and Applications
By: Paul A. Clayton (paaronclayton.delete@this.gmail.com), October 19, 2012 12:54 pm
Room: Moderated Discussions
forestlaughing (forestlaughing.delete@this.yahoo.com) on October 19, 2012 9:38 am wrote:
[snip]
> If you want high bandwidth computers, they can be built, you just have to bring a BIG
> bag of money to the table. It's been done in the past, but these huge clusters solve
> enough of the problems, and for relatively little money, that most users learn to
> live with what they can afford.

There seem to be at least three concerns related to the commonness of lower bandwidth (higher FLOPS/monetary unit) computers.

First, that approximations to the modeled system will be developed which perform adequately on such systems but which may not match the system being modeled and for which the results are not validated by a known good model. Since validation can be perceived as merely an unnecessary cost and either delays release of the result or presents the possibility of an embarrassing retraction, there are incentives not to bother with validation. If the general model of the system or the input data is sufficiently inaccurate, inaccuracy in approximation of the model may not be particularly important, though such might cause an incorrect attribution of the failure of the simulation to the general model or the input data (when in fact the approximation of the model was at fault).

(For some problems, even a known inaccurate model that is substantially faster or more scalable could be useful as a filter for exploring a decision space, but such generally assumes the choices that pass through the filter will be examined with an accurate model.)

Second, research which requires a higher bandwidth computer to meet time to solution requirements may be avoided more than a strict cost-benefit analysis would urge. (I think part of this is the somewhat artificial time to solution requirements. If a result is necessary to complete a degree program or apply for extended funding, then slow research will tend to be excessively discouraged.)

This is magnified by the issues of low volume, making high bandwidth computers more expensive than "necessary", reducing the number of researches training new researchers in that specific area, reducing the maturity of tools for exploring that field, etc. A lack of higher bandwidth computing researchers can also lead to a "vast echo chamber" effect, reaffirming to the lower bandwidth computing researchers that they are correct and diminishing consideration of alternatives.

(I do not know if the current state is a local optimum that would be substantially improved by a significant investment. I do suspect that HPC will not fund much research and development effort for higher bandwidth computers and most of the effort would need to be funded for other concerns and applied to HPC with only modest development effort.)

Third, a benchmarketing effect can direct funding of computers toward those that excel in more easily communicated (and measured) metrics. Linpack FLOPS is a simple measure of supercomputing value and can be used to establish prestige (which encourages donations and draws talent) or used to sell to managers as being worthwhile.

This third concern can have synergy with the diminished awareness of the value of higher bandwidth computing. If the vast majority of researchers believe that a lower bandwidth computer is either well suited to their research or at least good enough (even if the models and algorithms used are inaccurate or simply not know to be accurate), then they will support efforts to fund such lower bandwidth computers ("it works for me" is added to the benefits of prestige and likeliness of receiving funding from perceived cost effectiveness).

I think these three concerns are (at least part of) what Robert Myers is trying to argue about.

There is some virtue in making lemonade when the world gives you lemons, but a focus on lemonade can disregard the utility of tea ("if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem can look like a nail"). One might even go on to provide "tea" with ever increasing amounts of lemon juice and decreasing amounts of tea.

I do not know if the lower bandwidth supercomputers are less useful than believed by their funders nor if increased funding of higher bandwidth supercomputers would be worthwhile. I do know that the human capacity for self-deception and the incentives for deceiving others (especially knowing that those being deceived would not understand a valid argument in support of one's position) are substantial, so I would guess that at least some misdirection of effort is present in HPC, possibly more so than in other areas (e.g., because of the difficulty of understanding the issues and the high level funding required [meaning "upper management" is heavily involved in the decision but highly removed from the issues]).

[I hope this long post has not wasted too much of others' time.]
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TopicPosted ByDate
New article: Intel's Near-Threshold ComputingDavid Kanter09/18/12 12:26 PM
  Higher SRAM voltage and shared L1Paul A. Clayton09/18/12 02:38 PM
    Higher SRAM voltage and shared L1David Kanter09/18/12 05:20 PM
      Higher SRAM voltage and shared L1Eric09/20/12 10:44 AM
        Higher SRAM voltage and shared L1David Kanter09/20/12 12:24 PM
      Yes, that kind of asynchronousPaul A. Clayton09/20/12 02:53 PM
    Higher SRAM voltage and shared L1somebody09/19/12 09:27 AM
      So micro-turboboost is doubly impracticalPaul A. Clayton09/20/12 02:53 PM
  Big littleDoug S09/18/12 03:04 PM
    Big littleDavid Kanter09/18/12 04:05 PM
    Big littleRicardo B09/19/12 04:06 AM
  New article: Intel's Near-Threshold Computingdefderdar09/18/12 09:39 PM
    New article: Intel's Near-Threshold Computingtarlinian09/19/12 08:32 AM
      New article: Intel's Near-Threshold ComputingDavid Kanter09/19/12 10:44 AM
  New article: Intel's Near-Threshold ComputingMark Christiansen09/19/12 11:31 AM
    New article: Intel's Near-Threshold ComputingChris Brodersen09/19/12 12:54 PM
  New article: Intel's Near-Threshold ComputingEric09/20/12 10:47 AM
  Latency and HPC WorkloadsRobert Myers10/03/12 10:52 AM
    Latency and HPC Workloadsanon10/03/12 06:50 PM
      Latency and HPC WorkloadsRobert Myers10/04/12 10:24 AM
        Latency and HPC WorkloadsSHK10/08/12 05:42 AM
          Latency and HPC WorkloadsMichael S10/08/12 01:59 PM
            Latency and HPC WorkloadsSHK10/08/12 02:42 PM
              Latency and HPC WorkloadsMichael S10/08/12 05:12 PM
                Latency and HPC Workloadsforestlaughing10/15/12 08:41 AM
                  The original context was Micron RLDRAM (NT)Michael S10/15/12 08:55 AM
                    The original context was Micron RLDRAMforestlaughing10/15/12 10:21 AM
              Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?Kevin G10/09/12 09:48 AM
                Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?Michael S10/09/12 10:33 AM
                  Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?SHK10/09/12 12:55 PM
                    Why not SRAM? - CapacityRohit10/09/12 09:13 PM
                  Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?Kevin G10/09/12 03:04 PM
                    Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?Michael S10/09/12 04:52 PM
                      Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?Robert Myers10/10/12 10:11 AM
                        Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?forestlaughing10/15/12 08:02 AM
                          Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?Robert Myers10/15/12 09:04 AM
                            Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?forestlaughing10/16/12 09:13 AM
                          Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?SHK10/16/12 08:12 AM
                    Latency and HPC Workloads - Why not SRAM?slacker10/11/12 01:35 PM
                      SRAM leakageDavid Kanter10/11/12 03:00 PM
          Latency and HPC Workloadsforestlaughing10/15/12 08:57 AM
            Latency and HPC WorkloadsRobert Myers10/16/12 07:28 AM
              Latency and HPC WorkloadsMichael S10/16/12 07:35 AM
              Latency and HPC Workloadsanon10/16/12 08:17 AM
                Latency and HPC WorkloadsRobert Myers10/16/12 09:56 AM
                  Supercomputer variant of Kahan quotePaul A. Clayton10/16/12 11:09 AM
                    Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/17/12 01:17 AM
                      Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/17/12 04:34 AM
                        Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/17/12 05:12 AM
                          Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/17/12 02:38 PM
                            Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/17/12 05:24 PM
                              Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/17/12 05:45 PM
                                Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/17/12 05:58 PM
                                Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/17/12 05:58 PM
                                  Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/17/12 07:14 PM
                                    Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/17/12 08:36 PM
                                      Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/18/12 09:47 AM
                                        Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/19/12 02:34 AM
                                          Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/19/12 04:47 AM
                                          Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/19/12 03:14 PM
                        Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteMichael S10/17/12 06:56 PM
                          Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/17/12 09:02 PM
                            Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/18/12 01:29 PM
                              Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/19/12 02:27 AM
                                Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/19/12 07:24 AM
                                  Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/19/12 08:00 AM
                                    Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/19/12 09:28 AM
                                      Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteanon10/19/12 10:27 AM
                              Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteforestlaughing10/19/12 10:26 AM
                                Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/19/12 07:04 PM
                                  Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteEmil Briggs10/20/12 04:52 AM
                                    Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/20/12 07:51 AM
                                      Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteEmil Briggs10/20/12 08:33 AM
                                        Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteEmil Briggs10/20/12 08:34 AM
                                          Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/20/12 09:35 AM
                                            Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteEmil Briggs10/20/12 10:04 AM
                                              Supercomputer variant of Kahan quoteRobert Myers10/20/12 11:23 AM
                  Latency and HPC Workloadsanon10/16/12 06:48 PM
                    Latency and HPC Workloadsforestlaughing10/19/12 11:43 AM
              Latency and HPC Workloadsforestlaughing10/19/12 09:38 AM
                Latency and HPC WorkloadsRobert Myers10/19/12 11:40 AM
                Potential false economics in researchPaul A. Clayton10/19/12 12:54 PM
                  Potential false economics in researchVincent Diepeveen10/20/12 08:59 AM
                  Potential false economics in researchforestlaughing10/23/12 10:56 AM
                    Potential false economics in researchRobert Myers10/23/12 07:16 PM
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