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Google Compute Engine launches GPU support in beta, but requires raising your quota

Google data center in Douglas County, Georgia.

Google today announced that it has made graphics processing units (GPUs) available in beta through the Google Compute Engine. Specifically Nvidia’s Tesla K80 GPUs can be attached to regular or custom virtual machine (VM) instances. Google first announced that it would make GPUs available through the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in November.

As of today, you can only provision a GPU through Google’s gcloud software development kit (SDK); that option will become available through the GCP Console “later this week,” Google product manager John Barrus wrote in a blog post.

However it turns out that currently if you’d like to try attaching a GPU to a VM through the gcloud command line interface (CLI), you’ll encounter an error that looks something like this:

ERROR: (gcloud.beta.compute.instances.create) Some requests did not succeed:
Quota 'NVIDIA_K80_GPUS' exceeded. Limit: 0.0

In other words, by default, you cannot start using any GPUs. You have to manually request an increase in your quota using a Google Form on a per-region basis. Documentation does suggest that this is the case, and a Google spokesperson confirmed it to VentureBeat in an email. Today’s blog post does not acknowledge the quirk, though.

“Most established projects have quota already in place. Quota requests for new projects and free trials will be quickly filled (24-48 hours),” the spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email. “We are rolling out a console this week that will make the quota requests clear and easy.” Some existing projects already have GPU quotas, the spokesperson noted.

Public cloud market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers GPU-backed instances but doesn’t let customers make custom VM instances, and it charges by the hour while Google charges by the minute. The same can be said of Microsoft Azure’s N-Series GPU-backed instances.

While Google is bringing out GPUs after Amazon and Microsoft have done that, Google is trying to stand out partly by offering a variety of GPUs to choose from. In the future it will make AMD FirePro S9300 x2 GPUs available. The spokesperson wouldn’t comment on timing.

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick