back to article US govt bans Intel from selling chips to China's supercomputer boffins

The US government has blocked Intel from shipping high-end Xeon processors to China's supercomputer builders – and other American chip giants are banned, too. Intel confirmed to The Register last night it was refused permission to sell the chips to the Middle Kingdom's defense labs and other parts of its supercomputing …

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@ Fred Flintstone

thats exactly why I suggested it. If Intel can do it by accident, then surely they can design-flaw deliberately?

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Oh do kindly p*** off with your xenophobic commentary.

Like the Chinese can't figure this out by buying a 'Euro' Xeon and one shipped from the US and doing calculations to see if they are identical?

Idiot.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Fred Flintstone

thats exactly why I suggested it. If Intel can do it by accident, then surely they can design-flaw deliberately?

No. I suggest you look up what happened as a result of that bug - you don't even want such a problem out there by accident, and CERTAINLY not deliberate: it's pretty much a certainty that it will eventually come back to bite you in the posterior. I agree that that is not an argument that will as much as slow down a politician, but those of us who have to wrestle with the inevitable fallout (and blowback) have been there before.

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Or you could sell them perfectly working chips so they don't develop their own expertise.

They waste the supercomputer time to develop expensive nuclear weapons that they can never use and gradually bankrupt their economy - cf USSR

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@ x 7

Well given you're the bullshit expert I'll have to cede to your far more advanced knowledge of linguistic diarrhea and looking stupid.

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x 7
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looks like that turnip in your mouth grew to be a mangel-wurzel.

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Anonymous Coward

Q:

Where are those chips made in the first place?

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Re: Q:

In the US IIRC. Intel's foreign foundries are for older, less important chips.

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Re: Q:

Most of the Xeons in my abode (and I have a couple dozen of them) were made in Malaysia and Costa Rica. Those are the 22nm Ivy Bridge Xeons (E3-1280v2s and E3-1265Lv2s respectively) - so we're not talking about ancient history, here.

I anticipate a huge change in the popularity of server, ATX, microATX and mini-ITX platforms based around the OpenPower platform. That would be a walking nightmare for Intel, a boon for Microsoft and not much of a big deal for Linux.

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Re: Q:

Why would it be a boon for Microsoft? Do they still develop Windows and Windows applications for POWER?

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Lenovo now owns IBM's Server hardware business, don't they? And IBM has been in bed with Lenovo since they bought their PC business. There's no mention of IBM not being able to sell the Power CPU to Lenovo, so all theses blocked Uni's have to do is go to Lenovo in their own country to get Power CPU chips without missing anything from Intel. The machine architecture will change, Intel loses revenue streams, and China isn't prevented from building Supercomputers.

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Anonymous Coward

But IBM's chip business has gone to GF, not Lenovo.

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This is so stupid it's almost funny.

Scratch that. I actually laughed out loud at this story. It's a gallows laugh - the depression at the short-sighted stupidity of this will settle in shortly.

The USA is still fighting from the idea that they're on top and can keep others down. That idea is out of date and the actions that would make sense from that point of view now translate into alienating near-equal partners and making enemies of them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is so stupid it's almost funny.

The thing with these embargoes is, I'm sure they benefit those who prescribe them (politicians, lobbyists) in some way or another. They are however, rather counterproductive for their economy at large and their population, as they are starting to realise with the Cuba fiasco.

Another case in point: a company I used to work for had their support centre in the US. At the same time, lots of their operations were based in embargoed countries (Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Lybia, etc., etc.) Because of some law or another, when a support request originating from one of those countries was received, they just refused to process it and simply rejected all further communication. Not exactly conducive to great support and getting operations back online, so in the end they just moved the support centre out of the US, with about a hundred people losing their jobs.

But politicians and (ahem) "policy-makers" live in a world of their own.

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Stupid on all counts. They'll get them anyway; and, if they don't, they'll make their own.

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Zot

Just break the 14nm transistor size minimum

Then you can forget Intel.

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Anonymous Coward

Apparently they can still buy them

The ban only applies to that specific supercomputing project, but according to the Commerce department, it is not a China-wide ban. When asked what prevented the supercomputing project from purchasing the chips from another Chinese company, the Commerce department noted that this would be "illegal".

Now, I'm not a genius, or even an economist, but in what Universe does it make sense to make a move like this that can only end in trade war, when it doesn't even accomplish the goal of restricting the use of this technology for the project in question?

It would take all of about 3 minutes to create a corporation that legally purchases these parts and keeps them in "inventory" inside the TianHe chassis. This is how just-in-time inventory works in the US anyway.. at Dell for example, they don't take delivery of the part until it's removed from the vendor-owned cage inside the Dell manufacturing area, or at least that's how it worked 10 years ago.

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Rather add nsaware to the chip

Among those billions of transistors US gowernment may add nsaware to produce faults, disable features, overheat, snoop etc. A terrible idea. The world has moved on since the cold war area.

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Anonymous Coward

Why ?

There are nine uses of supercomputers that quickly come to mind:

Recreating the Big Bang, Understanding earthquakes, Folding Proteins, Mapping the blood stream, Modeling swine flu, Testing nuclear weapons, Forecasting hurricanes, Predicting climate change, Building brains

I will admit that at least seven of them have military applications.

But I would guess is that 'merica is blocking the sale for fear of the last one, because not enough though has gone into the far reaching consequences of this decision. Short term it may delay things, but long term it is not a good idea for 'merica. The rest of the world will get dirt cheap processors.

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Re: Why ?

"Building brains. [...] But I would guess is that 'merica is blocking the sale for fear of the last one, because not enough though has gone into the far reaching consequences of this decision."

In order for politicians to think abut brain building, they would first need to find an example of one.

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Anonymous Coward

US citizens are kept in the dark

What I find funny is that this is not news worthy in the US. Or it is censored.

http://edition.cnn.com/tech

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/technology/index.html

Americans obviously do not need to know what it's government is doing.

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"It has become a defining feature of American policy and only last week the former head of the NSA warned about just this kind of processor embargo."

The former head of the NSA is worried about not being able to sell backdoored CPUs to China.

"The big thing the US bully boy has is control over the world's banking system. The rest of the world needs to pull their head out of their ass and fix that."

China has already made moves in the right direction. The US and EU unilateral sanctions against Iran (and various other countries) have prompted China to settle trade using each other's respectively currency instead of using USDs.

The soon to be launched AIIB is a direct response to the US/EU refusal to allow China a larger voting right in both the IMF and the World Bank, even though in the wake of the 2009 financial crisis China were asked to pony up some more cash to bolster the reserves. Despite intense US pressure on its lackeys not to join the AIIB, the UK, France, Germany and most major European countries have joined, along with most major countries in Asia-Pacific (with the exception of Japan who singularly succumbed to US pressure).

While China is busy connecting the world with its so called "One Belt, One Road" initiative which aims to create the necessary infrastructure and transport links to facilitate trade from China to Africa by sea and from China to Europe by land, the US is busy connecting the world with military bases.

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Anonymous Coward

Two are already playing this game

Best opening up of the macro scale this game is being played at. China played the last round by blocking export of rare earths in 2010-2011. There are plenty of other rare earth sources in world, but they did not have the developed recovery and refinery resources to go with them since the Chinese had locked up that market. US can play with regulatory changes. Same sort of deal with this particular run of the good/fast XEON chips. Chinese haven't ponied up the multi-billions of $/remimbi and spent the multiple years to build fab plants capable of the rare THz chips. It was chasing that technology leadership that got through to the USSR to decide to drop out. If this isn't a good strategy, why is China playing it?

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Some Considerations

From the story, it appears that a court was simply enforcing an existing legislated ban on exports for military uses. Courts go by what the law says, and so if the consequences are bad, politicians will have to amend the law; it's not fair to criticize the body that directly imposed the specific sanctions.

However, shortly after I read this, I found out from a Google search that China was coming out with a supercomputer which consumed 1.1 megawatts to provide one petaflop of computing power, using homegrown Shenwei 1600 processors, made on a 65nm processs. I was amazed that they reacted so quickly in the expected fashion to this!

Then I searched for more information, took a closer look at the results, and found that this story was from November of 2011. Apparently the processor may use the MIPS instruction set, although its internals are said to be based on studying a DEC Alpha.

This means China indeed has a capacity for going homegrown, but also that it would try this without our encouragement - and that they are sufficiently behind in technology that sanctions will still slow them down.

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I say boycott Intel completely. Since they began invading our privacy with their secret 3G chip and embedded operating system, we should stop using their products. Go with AMD. If we slam a large hammer on Intel, than AMD will be afraid to pull such a stunt against the people. Clearly Intel is now in the pockets of the elite assholes.

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