Intel can’t sell to China anymore, unless they jump through more hoops. And maybe not even then.
Gizmodo is reporting that Intel was ready to sell and send tens of thousands of their Xeon Phi chips to China to be used on China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer. Tabbed the world’s most powerful computing machine, the Tianhe-2 uses 80,000 Xeon chips to perform 33 petaflops per second. That means that the Tianhe-2 can do over over approximately one quadrillion calculations per second. This year, the Tianhe-2 will be upgraded to more than triple that capacity, raising it to 110 petaflops.
The reason for the sale being cancelled is because the United States government is afraid that the Tianhe-2 is being used in some way to begin creating a nuclear capacity in China. It is unclear, however, if the United States has any tangible evidence either to the point or to the contrary, but Intel has to comply with the license for sale being denied. Intel should be able to pick up some of its loss because they can use those Xeon Phi chips in the new supercomputer Intel was contracted to build in the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The Aurora supercomputer, when completed, is set to be able to do over 180 petaflops.
Sputnik News is reporting how the United States Department of Commerce essentially killed the deal. For years, Intel has been selling its chips to China without worry or question. When Intel announced this deal, however, the Department of Commerce informed Intel that they would have to apply for a new export license, and the license has to be granted. Intel applied for the license, but it was denied.
In February, the United States made a list of four institutions that contain supercomputers that would no longer be able to receive certain U.S. exports. Two of the four include the China’s National University of Defense Technology, and the National Supercomputing Center of Guangzhou, home of the Tianhe-2 and the Tianhe-1a.
The official notice from the Department of Commerce for the reasoning behind denying the export license is “acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Therefore, for the Department of Commerce to deny the export license, they have to have some proof that the supercomputer will be used for some sort of nuclear activities. This may push China to create its own chip industry, bypassing the need for outside assistance. There is also the possibility of some sort of espionage, too, but again, there is no public knowledge of such happening.
[Image courtesy of Gizmodo]