Categories
Computing

Why GPU Bundles Are Both Hurting and Helping the Shortage

GPU bundles have been one of the only ways to buy a graphics card in 2021, and they’ve been met with a mixed reception. Claims of endless profiteering and offloading undesirable products have run amok, painting retailers as nothing more than money-hungry entities that are capitalizing on a bad situation.

There’s a thread of truth to that, but after talking with market experts and retailers, I’m convinced that GPU bundles help more than they hurt. Although there isn’t a magic bullet to solve the GPU shortage, retailers can make cards easier to find by bundling graphics cards with other products.

Here’s why, and more importantly, how.

Why graphics card bundles make sense

Unless you have a local Micro Center or have been lucky enough to score a GPU at one of Best Buy’s in-store restocks, there’s one main way to buy a new graphics card in 2021: Through a bundle. Led by Newegg’s Shuffle lottery program, retailers have started selling graphics cards exclusively with other PC components or accessories.

Antonline is one example. It sells bundles of EVGA graphics cards along with other EVGA components and accessories at a slight markup (much less than the markup of graphics cards alone elsewhere). Newegg restricts all but the most expensive graphics cards to bundles, too, with many bundles exclusively part of Newegg Shuffle.

It’s easy to draw a conclusion here: Demand for graphics cards is still through the roof, and retailers are taking advantage of the situation by offloading products that may not sell on their own. That’s part of why we’re seeing GPU bundles, but it’s far from the full story.

Ted Pollak, senior gaming analyst at graphics research firm Jon Peddie Research, says that “bundling makes sense.” Scalpers and bots snatch up graphics cards quickly, and Pollak says that bundling can be an effective way to deter them from graphics cards. “Nothing can circumvent scalpers and bots, but bundling makes the economics much worse for people trying to flip product.”

Listings for the RTX 3080 on eBay.

It’s not just a matter of pointing the finger at bots and scalpers, though. The increased prices of GPUs have led gamers to seek out graphics cards to resell. Gamers likely don’t account for a large portion of the millions resellers have raked in through graphics cards. But if an extra graphics card is on the table, there’s an incentive for gamers to offload it for a profit.

“The retailers don’t really have control here no matter what they do on unbundled cards sales,” Pollack said. “Even gamers will take advantage of arbitrage situations, and if they can buy something for $500 that they can instantly sell for $850, they will do it.”

How to make a GPU bundle (without screwing over gamers)

GPU in neon lights.
Martin Katler/Unsplash

Bundling makes sense for graphics cards. It changes the economics enough to make GPUs less attractive to scalpers, and it removes the incentive for gamers to set up a GPU reselling business on the side. When I asked Catherine Comerford, chief merchandising officer at Antonline, if bundles are beneficial right now, she made it clear: “One-thousand percent.”

That doesn’t mean bundling is perfect. In August, Gamers Nexus published a detailed look at two Gigabyte power supplies that were bundled with graphics cards as part of Newegg’s Shuffle program. These power supplies had some major issues, which could lead to the power supply failing or, in the worst case, sparking and potentially causing a fire.

A dead power supply is bad enough. Worse, Newegg doesn’t allow returns on bundles unless the full bundle is returned. So, if you bought a power supply that failed, you’d be forced to send it back along with the GPU. This is a policy Antonline has, too. Every product page says that “only new and sealed complete bundles will be eligible for returns.”

GPU bundles on Newegg.
“All individual products in below combo must be returned in their entirety.”

It makes sense. Retailers would be destroying the benefit of bundling products together if they allowed individual items to be returned. The solution is to bundle products that are actually useful.

Comerford said that’s a focus for Antonline. Instead of bundling backstock, Antonline builds bundles with products that people may use — say, a power supply that’s rated for the card you’re purchasing or a few months of Xbox Game Pass for PC. Comerford said that Antonline is constantly changing its bundles, too, both in response to customers’ feedback and to confuse bots scraping the site.

Newegg isn’t as generous. At best, the company offers graphics cards with a motherboard or SSD. But if you frequent Newegg’s Shuffle program, you’ll often find cards bundled with a single stick of RAM, or a high-end motherboard bundled with a low-end graphics card. I’ve found PCIe 4.0 graphics cards with PCIe 3.0 motherboards, too.

There’s a tightrope for retailers to walk. GPU bundles are inherently opportunistic, so it’s important that they come with products that support the graphics card. Although Newegg bundles graphics cards with other PC components, they’re often disjointed or unrelated. For GPU bundles to work, they need more than other products the retailer has in stock.

They need to unlock a reasonable price, too. Bundles at Newegg, for example, are at most $10 cheaper than the price of the components on their own. And in many cases, you can’t purchase the graphics card alone. You have to pay the price Newegg could sell the card for on its own while picking up another component you may not need.

GPU bundles aren’t ideal, but they can offer a path for gamers to pick up a graphics card. The important things are that the bundled products are useful and that the price of the graphics card is lower than what the retailer could sell the card for on its own.

Getting back to normal

A Newegg warehouse.
Gary Friedman/Getty

The GPU shortage is a complex issue, and it’s impossible to know when you’ll be able to buy a graphics card at list price. Pollak told me that he expects things to return to normal in March 2022, “barring new virus or political problems.” The biggest hurdle is supply, though, and executives warn that supply issues may carry well into 2023.

GPU bundles may be around for a while, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. By bundling supporting products and working to balance the cost of the GPU, bundles can be an effective way for gamers to access graphics cards without paying the astronomical prices set by resellers.

Although there are still issues to work out, Comerford says everyone is working toward the same goal. “Everyone in this community is frustrated about scalper activity that’s happening, and everyone has the goal of getting products in the hands of gamers and real tech enthusiasts.”

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

‘Pokémon Go’ maker Niantic is helping others create AR metaverse apps

Niantic Labs is offering everyone the chance to get their hands on the tech behind Pokémon Go and Pikmin Bloom so they can build their own augmented reality and “real-world metaverse” apps. Developers can start using the Niantic Lightship platform today. The company also announced a $20 million investment fund to back developers that “share our vision for the real-world metaverse and contribute to the global ecosystem we are building.”

Developers can use Ninatic’s toolkit to create real-time 3D mesh maps so apps can understand the surfaces and topography of the world surrounding a device. Other APIs will help apps know the difference between different aspects of an environment, such as the ground, sky, water and buildings. The toolkit also enables developers to make apps that allow up to five players to take part in the same AR multiplayer session, keeping all of their content and interactions in sync.

The tools are mostly free. The multiplayer APIs will be available at no cost for the first six months no matter how many users an app has. After that, Niantic will charge a fee if the APIs are used in an app with more than 50,000 monthly active users.

Several notable brands have taken part in a private beta of the development kit, including Universal Pictures, PGA of America and Warner Music Group. Coachella has created an AR experience that its festival attendees will be able to check out next year. They’ll be able to see a large version of Coachella’s butterfly landing on the seven-story Spectra rainbow walkway tower.

Meanwhile, Shueisha is working with developer T&S to bring characters from One Piece and other manga into the real world with AR. That app will be available in 2022.

Niantic’s vision of the metaverse is very much different from the virtual reality-centered future Facebook’s parent company Meta has in mind. In a blog post in August, CEO John Hanke suggested that the “real-world metaverse” is about connecting the physical and digital worlds, rather than existing purely as a virtual experience. With that in mind, his company has been working on AR glasses with Qualcomm over the last couple of years.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Categories
Game

‘District 9’ director Neill Blomkamp is helping make a new ‘AAA’ game

District 9 director Neill Blomkamp never did get to make . However, Blomkamp still has a foothold in the video game world after directing an . He’s now helping a studio called Gunzilla Games with its first game, a multiplayer shooter.

Blomkamp — who also directed Elysium,  and the upcoming Demonic — has joined Gunzilla as chief visionary officer, as  reports. He’ll help guide the aesthetic of the game and provide input on aspects such as design, audio and the narrative from a film director’s perspective. He admitted that he hasn’t worked in game development before, so collaborating closely with other key creatives on the project will be crucial.

The studio was formed last year and employs developers who have experience at the likes of Crytek, Ubisoft and EA. The shooter, which is still largely under wraps, might not be a one-and-done deal for Oscar nominee Blomkamp.

“Games will […] become what films were in the 20th century,” he told IGN. “They’ll just be the thing that is the dominant form of cultural entertainment and [I want] to be in that. Mixing my history in visual effects and interest in 3D graphics means I want to have a home base in the creation of games for a really long time. So if the game is a success and everything works out, hopefully I’m staying at Gunzilla for a long time.”

Blomkamp is joining a long line of notable filmmakers and creatives from other mediums who’ve moved into games. Guillermo del Toro was set to direct the  alongside Hideo Kojima, while George R. R. Martin helped craft the world of . Steven Spielberg has credits on several games too. Along with , he was creative director on an EA puzzle game called .

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Categories
AI

How AI is helping enterprises turn the tables on malicious attacks

Presented by Huawei Technologies


Malicious attackers have turned to AI to invade enterprise networks. To combat attacks, organizations need to embrace AI in turn. Join this VB Live event to learn more about the powerful, proactive AI security solutions that are enabling intelligent threat detection and response, security operations and maintenance, and more.

Register here for free.


Check off another consequence of COVID: It’s directly responsible for the uptick in security risks for organizations. Many companies were forced to accelerate digital transformation, adopting brand-new technologies and policies to meet pandemic challenges. Now more intelligent devices are connected to the network than ever before – which expands the company’s threat surface exponentially. From the unsecured laptops of remote employees, to devices with no security policies in place (who’d expect an air conditioner to be online?) attackers have their pick of vulnerable new blind spots in the network.

Then there’s the increased competence of threat agents. Sophisticated IT expertise isn’t necessary to compromise a network anymore — ransomware, botnets as a service, and crypto miners are easy to obtain and easy to use. With sufficient start-up capital and a basic understanding of IT, any bad actor can outsource bad intentions as a service.

“As these technologies keep evolving, these threats are going to evolve with it,” says Yair Kler, head of solution security at Huawei Technologies. “But AI is now playing a major part in how enterprises can successfully meet these security risks in return.”

Powerful AI security solutions in the wild

The major benefit of AI security tools is how they can address the needle in the haystack problem, Kler says. Humans cannot handle the proliferation of data points and the massive amounts of data pouring into the system, but AI is very good at identifying, filtering, and prioritizing threat warnings.

“It replaces the two overwhelmed SIEM guys trying to filter the millions of alerts in your SOC center,” Kler says. “AI can prioritize and correlate alerts, then direct your attention to the next urgent task.” In the future, AI will also help us in threat hunting in the network, uncovering fine correlations and statistical anomalies to highlight them for security teams.

AI can also be used for overall threat intelligence, predicting when, where, and what kind of attacks your organization might be facing next — predictive maintenance, in other words, to determine what’s going to go wrong next. For instance, if attacks on medical facilities ramp up, it can warn you that your own medical facility is now at increased risk.

But remember that AI is not a silver bullet that’s going to solve every security issue, Kler says.

“If a marketing guy tells you that AI is going to solve all your cybersecurity problems, gracefully show him the door and tell him to come up with another pitch,” he says. “Like any other tool, it’s powerful if properly used, but it’s just one part of an overall security arsenal.”

Striking the human/AI balance

A lot of research is being done right now to try try to find the right balance of AI usage and human oversight. It comes down to risk management. Any location where AI might potentially cause physical, psychological, or reputational damage requires strong oversight.

The other requirement is determining the degree of tolerance an enterprise has for the AI to misbehave or to fail, along with the time and costs to recover from failure. In critical domains where a misbehaving AI can irreversibly bring down the business, enterprises must leverage AI very carefully with strict policies and stringent security controls.

On the other hand, if you’re using AI as part of your security monitoring system in order to deliver meaningful security insights, you still maintain access to the underlying data, therefore if a problem in AI recommendations system occurs, the impact would be lower. An oversight process can be used to identify and correct such issues with minimal to no damage to the network.

“Businesses  should introduce graceful failures as part of their AI cybersecurity strategy” Kler says. “Enterprises can allow AI to make decisions and take actions if they know and can control the blast radius in case of an AI failure.”

Implementing AI successfully

The cost-benefit analysis is step zero in a successful AI security implementation — and in gettomg essential stakeholders on board. Security leaders must first identify and demonstrate how AI can reduce costs, whether these are financial, reputational, or any other vulnerable facet of the organization, and show how it’s going to help  reduce the number of successful incidents or reduce CAPEX or OPEX.

For most companies, the easiest place to introduce AI into their cybersecurity architecture, with the biggest gain, is probably going to be the event monitoring domain. Integrating AI into the monitoring platform may vastly improves a team’s ability to identify and address the most urgent events, reduce attackers’ dwell time and improve the overall detection and response metrics. AI can also help analyze security events after post-processing, delivering insights and helping companies to continuously improve their security posture.

After you identify where integration of  AI in the security architecture would provide the biggest gain, the next step is to focus on policies, education, and management. First, policies would help drive and shape the business processes and justifies your security decisions. Next, employees need to be adequately trained to properly use AI tools, in order to maximize the business benefits. And finally, you need to monitor and measure the impact of AI on your security solution and overall security posture and optimize accordingly.

Learn more about how AI security tools are helping secure enterprise networks, strategies for successful risk identification and management, how to strike the right balance between AI automation and human control, and more.


Don’t miss out.

Register here for free.


You’ll learn:

  • How AI is changing the game for network security solutions
  • How to mitigate attacks with proactive AI network security and keep your company out of the headlines
  • How to take data and analytics one step further to level up your network security game

Speakers:

  • Yair Kler, Head of Solution Security, Huawei Technologies
  • Andy Purdy, Chief Security Officer, Huawei Technologies USA (moderator)

More speakers to be announced soon!

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Categories
AI

How AI is helping Nvidia improve U.S. Postal Service delivery

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


Nvidia this week detailed a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service to transform the latter’s mail operations with AI. According to Nvidia, its machine learning resources and tools enabled the Postal Service to process over 20 terabytes of images a day from more than 1,000 mail processing machines using 195 edge servers.

In 2019, the Postal Service had a requirement to identify and track items in its over 100 million pieces of daily mail. Data scientists at the organization thought they could expand an image analysis system developed internally into something broader, with edge AI servers strategically located at the Post Office’s processing centers. The hope was that the system would enable the Postal Service to analyze billions of images of mail and share the insights quickly over the network.

Recruiting half a dozen architects at Nvidia and other companies, the Postal Service arrived at the deep learning models it needed after a three-week sprint. The work was the genesis of the Edge Compute Infrastructure Program, a distributed edge AI system that’s running on the NVIDIA EGX platform at the Postal Service today.

Open source software from Nvidia, the Triton Inference Server, acts as a sort of digital mailperson between the edge servers, delivering the necessary AI models on demand. According to the Postal Service’s analysis, a computer vision task that would have required two weeks on a network of servers with 800 processors can now be accomplished in 20 minutes on the four NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPUs in one of the edge servers, HPE Apollo 6500s.

Model serving

Triton automates the delivery of AI models to different Postal Service systems that may have unique configurations of GPUs and CPUs supporting deep learning frameworks. An app that checks for mail items alone requires coordinating the work of more than half a dozen deep learning models, each checking for specific features.

Nvidia USPS

Above: Cameras mounted on the sorting machines capture addresses, barcodes, and other data, such as hazardous materials symbols.

Image Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Departments across the Postal Service, from enterprise analytics to finance and marketing, have spawned ideas for as many as 30 apps for ECIP, Nvidia says. One would determine if a package carries the right postage for its size, weight, and destination. Another would decipher a barcode, even in the presence of damage.

The plan is to get several new AI-powered apps up and running this year. Nvidia and the Postal Service say the barcode model could be on ECIP as soon as this summer.

Next-gen OCR

Seeking further improvements to its mail processing pipeline, the Postal Service put out a request for what could be the next app for ECIP — one that uses optical character recognition (OCR). In the past, the agency would have bought expensive new hardware and software or used a public cloud service, which takes a lot of bandwidth and has significant costs. This time, leaning on Nvidia expertise, the company deployed an AI-based OCR system in a container on ECIP managed by Kubernetes and served by Triton.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, operators rolled out containers to get the first systems running as others were being delivered, updating them as the full network was installed. Nvidia was awarded the contract in September 2019, started deploying systems last February, and finished most of the hardware by August.

Nvidia USPS

Above: AI algorithms were developed on NVIDIA DGX servers at a U.S. Postal Service Engineering facility.

Image Credit: Nvidia

The new solutions could help the Postal Service improve delivery standards, which have fallen over the past year. In mid-December, during the last holiday season, the agency delivered as little as 62% of first-class mail on time — the lowest level in years. The rate rebounded to 84% by the week of March 6 but remained below the agency’s target of about 96%.

The Postal Service has blamed the pandemic and record peak periods for much of the poor service performance.

“The models we have deployed so far help manage the mail and the Postal Service — it helps us maintain our mission,” Todd Schimmel — the manager who oversees Postal Service systems, including ECIP — said in a press release. “It used to take eight or 10 people several days to track down items, now it takes one or two people a couple of hours. This has a benefit for us and our customers, letting us know where a specific parcel is at — it’s not a silver bullet, but it will fill a gap and boost our performance … We’re at the very beginning of our journey with edge AI.”

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