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Government tech shouldn’t be the minor leagues

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why this year’s Turing Award winner is worried about the future of government tech efforts, Nvidia takes a closer look at the health care market, and the debut of “Pixel Pat.”

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Intel is still the leader in chips for cloud infrastructure by a large margin, but AMD continues to gain ground in this lucrative market. According to a research note from Jefferies, AMD’s chips made up 72% of all new cloud instances in February and overall, it now enjoys 14.8% of the cloud market to Intel’s 78.6%.

Big Tech is robbing talent from government labs. This year’s Turing winner doesn’t like it.

Turing Award winner Jack Dongarra’s new “Nobel Prize of computing” trophy for his supercomputing work comes with a cool $1 million courtesy of Google. But Dongarra would rather the company and its Big Tech brethren quit drafting talent from his lab system.

In fact, he said he is tired of the government labs acting as a proverbial farm team for Big Tech.

  • “One of the concerns I have is that students and researchers leave the academic situation and end up in industry,” Dongarra told Protocol earlier this week.
  • Instead, he said, people whom he and others help train at big government labs often end up at Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, he said.
  • “It's draining significant amounts of talent into those companies, and at the expense of the research community,” Dongarra said.

Dongarra is a professor at University of Tennessee and a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, both places where big tech companies have looked for science and tech talent.

  • There’s no shortage of concern over brain drain away from academia to the private sector, but Dongarra said he expects it in his university role.
  • “At the university, I play a role of a Triple-A minor league providing talent to the major leagues, and that's a normal thing. That's a good way to view it."
  • But when it comes to government labs, things should be different, he said. “At the labs, it's hard to view it that way,” said Dongarra.

In general, it’s been tough for government agencies and labs to compete for talent against bigger private-sector salaries and benefits like gourmet lunches and kombucha kegs (and don’t forget those enticing stock options).

  • “They can't offer stock options, for example,” Dongarra said of the government labs. “They have to attract people based on the kind of environment that they can provide, in terms of the equipment that they have in the space, and so forth. The salaries just are not competitive with them.”
  • Regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, which itself struggles to attract experts to keep up with a fast-moving tech industry, must also compete for talent against private-sector salaries and benefits.
  • Legislators have tried to carve out more budget for tech staff at the FTC, for example. Most recently, the proposed Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022 would give the FTC more tech staff to oversee enforcement related to AI and algorithmic tech.
  • Indeed, the lack of funding for hiring people who understand complex tech concepts related to economic, antitrust and other tech policy has helped enable a controversial level of involvement and influence by private-sector powers.

Despite close collaborations, sometimes tensions among private-sector researchers and those from academia and government labs rise to the surface. Case in point: the quantum dustup between the White House and Google.

Ultimately, Dongarra said, government labs and scientific research could falter if things continue this way.

  • “The labs should not be a minor league for those companies,” he said. “They should be able to attract and retain talent. Without that cadre of young scientists, the labs are going to suffer in the near term.”

— Kate Kaye (email| twitter)


Seeking to triple its employee base, Whisk, a fully remote team, sought diverse talent from a wide variety of regions through Upwork, a work marketplace that connects businesses with independent professionals and agencies around the globe.

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Nvidia is getting serious about health care

For most of its early life, tech industry insiders thought of Nvidia largely in terms of its largest business: video game chips. But the company in recent years has sought to defy that impression, expanding its software effort and making big bets on the data center.

One of the lesser-known markets Nvidia has pursued in recent years is medical care, which is a $10 trillion industry, according to Nvidia Health Care Vice President Kimberly Powell. Powell recently spoke with Protocol about the company’s efforts for an upcoming interview:

“We can make a significant contribution in the area of medical imaging and medical devices. One of the largest workloads in supercomputing, and accelerated computing, is in the area of life sciences. To be able to do simulation of diseases, and chemical compounds interacting and trying to stop the behavior — [it’s] to do drug discovery, essentially in silicon, in a computer.

“Our charter is to say how do we take these modern computing approaches of accelerated computing, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and help the health care industry benefit from it.”

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Why didn’t they call it Monopoly

It’s been a little over a year since Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, arguably one of the most significant employees in Intel’s 53-year history, returned to the company. To celebrate the occasion, Intel released a cute 8-bit video game called Pixel Pat, where you assume control of Intel’s “chief geek” and try to navigate through a chip fab filled with prizes (chip wafers) and obstacles (these blob-like things that look kinda like the ghosts in Pac-Man).

Along the way, you learn “fun” facts about Intel’s history, although somebody forgot to include its legal disputes with AMD and the federal government. It’s a little challenging at first, and its habit of having you respawn directly over a huge chasm was kind of annoying, but give it a whirl this weekend.

— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

European regulators are taking a closer look at Microsoft’s cloud businessafter Slack, OVH and others have complained about its tactics in recent years.

Cloudflare completed its $162 million acquisition of Area 1 Security to improve its email security products.

GitLab plugged a “critical” security hole in its password configuration that could have made it possible for attackers to take over customer accounts.

It’s getting hard for companies that make low-end chips to determine whether or not their products are being used in Russia in violation of sanctions against the country, according to Reuters.


Whisk isn’t alone in unlocking the global marketplace to find the right types of employees to support its business goals. More than three-quarters of U.S. companies have used remote freelancers, according to research from Upwork, and more than a quarter of businesses plan to go fully remote in the next five years.

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Thanks for reading — see you Monday!

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