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Intel Businesses China Government Supercomputing United States Hardware Politics

US Blocks Intel From Selling Xeon Chips To Chinese Supercomputer Projects 229

itwbennett writes: U.S. government agencies have stopped Intel from selling microprocessors for China's supercomputers, apparently reflecting concern about their use in nuclear tests. In February, four supercomputing institutions in China were placed on a U.S. government list that effectively bans them from receiving certain U.S. exports. The institutions were involved in building Tianhe-2 and Tianhe-1A, both of which have allegedly been used for 'nuclear explosive activities,' according to a notice (PDF) posted by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Intel has been selling its Xeon chips to Chinese supercomputers for years, so the ban represents a blow to its business.
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US Blocks Intel From Selling Xeon Chips To Chinese Supercomputer Projects

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  • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @01:47PM (#49447917)

    So China is somehow incapable of buying the chips through a 3rd party? Maybe we could sell the Department of Commerce to China...nice regulatory agency, cheap, bit of wear around the edges and maybe a bit dated but it would fit well within China's Stupidity Index for Chinese What are Involved in Security against...errr...for the People.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @01:48PM (#49447931) Homepage Journal

      You mean like Lenovo?

      • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @01:59PM (#49448049) Journal

        Exactly.

        "You aren't allowed to sell Xeon parts to but you are still allowed to ship millions of them to Lenovo. And if a couple pallets of CPUs fall off the back of the 747... well, whatyagonnado?"

      • You mean like Lenovo?

        No, he means eBay.

    • If China can acquire the parts illegally somehow, they can of course use them. Export control laws theoretically prevent that, but ...

      In terms of all the posts saying China already builds these systems at Foxconn, they're not entirely correct. China builds the motherboards and the systems, but the processors are, in the case of high end machines, often populated elsewhere. At this moment I can't say for certain, but in the past we've had moments where we could not populate them in China and had to have US f

    • Or, they could just make their own processors. I believe they have the IP to do so through various acquisitions. And x86 isn't exactly the best instruction set out there efficiency-wise, so they might end up with something cheaper to run (definitely cheaper to build) and better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 10, 2015 @01:51PM (#49447959)

    Someday soon, the US will be unable to bully people into this kind of bullshit. Soon enough, it will make more sense economically to say "Fuck US" and pull out. This can't happen soon enough.

    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      Won't someone please think of the poor Chinese nuclear weapons program?

  • Last I checked, Intel had a fabrication plant and an assembly plant in China. Perhaps they don't actually assemble or fabricate Xeons there, but way to not think things all the way through there Intel.

    In other news, AMD stock goes through the roof.

    • Pretty sure that the newest 'shrinks' are done in the USA and when a process becomes mainstream they offshore the production.

      • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @03:05PM (#49448721) Journal

        Exactly right - Intel's development fab is in Hillsboro, Oregon. They get the fab process working there, and then document the hell out of it and reproduce that billion+ dollar facility in their production fabs around the world - Costa Rica, Philippines, Malaysia, etc. Then they tear out the inside of the development fab and start over for the next generation. Periodically they need a bigger building footprint, so they build another dev fab next door and assign the previous dev fab to be a production fab at that node for products until they're done with it.

        That would be what this campus [google.com] does.

        • Exactly right - Intel's development fab is in Hillsboro, Oregon. They get the fab process working there, and then document the hell out of it and reproduce that billion+ dollar facility in their production fabs around the world - Costa Rica, Philippines, Malaysia, etc. Then they tear out the inside of the development fab and start over for the next generation. Periodically they need a bigger building footprint, so they build another dev fab next door and assign the previous dev fab to be a production fab at that node for products until they're done with it.

          That would be what this campus [google.com] does.

          If you drag the map upwards a couple of times, you can see my house.

        • reproduce that billion+ dollar facility in their production fabs around the world - Costa Rica, Philippines, Malaysia, etc

          Quick point of clarification: there are no Intel fabs in any of those countries. All of Intel's leading-edge fabs are located in the US and Israel. There is a single fab in China, Fab 68, but it's purposely well behind the rest (currently at 65nm).

          Costa Rica, Philippines, and Malaysia are all "Assembly Test" locations where finished wafers are sent for testing, packaging, and assembly in

    • In other news, AMD stock goes through the roof.

      You're acting like China won't still be able to get their hands on a stack of Xeons any time they want to with Lenovo and Foxconn both sitting inside their borders. Plus, AMD can't deliver anything close to Xeon performance, much less at the same power rating. Nobody wants to dump 10MW into a computer room and then evacuate that heat if they can do the same job in 6MW with 2.5x the performance*.

      Looking at this [cpubenchmark.net] really should shed some light on where high-end computing sits right now - AMD isn't even in the

      • They can but it will be a lot more expensive and you can bet getting the tens or hundreds of thousands of chips they need for a supercomputer WILL be noticeable.

    • by wbo ( 1172247 )
      If I am not mistaken, the vast majority (if not all) Xeon chips are fabricated in Malaysia. Pretty much every Xeon CPU I have seen has had either Malaysia or Malay stamped on it and most engineering samples for new server and workstation chips appear to come from that fab as well.
    • That plant cannot use the latest manufacturing process. It is used to manufacture chipsets and crap like that.

    • The Chinese fab is a 65nm fab, which is for older stuff. All their 22nm fabs are in the US and Israel.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @02:07PM (#49448135) Journal
    "US: No more supercomputer simulations for you!"
    "China: Okay, we'll just go back to actual above-ground nuclear testing"
    "US: But you signed a test ban!"
    "China: Come and stop us."

    This seriously cannot end well. China already has a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, this goes so far beyond the scale of our pissing contest with Iran as to make it almost laughable (if it didn't potentially involve the world ending in a nuclear holocaust).
    • They're blocking Xeon chips, not Opteron chips. So, maybe some single-threaded programs the Chinese are running will suffer for it, but that's about all.

    • Came here to say this.

      List of Chinese nuclear tests [wikipedia.org]

      Furthermore, is denying China access to certain Intel CPUs that much of a roadblock? They can buy elsewhere or even make their own. Maybe even make their own clones of these very Intel chips.

      This pissing match is stupid on a Cuba-esque level.

    • by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @04:12PM (#49449247)

      Actually China's nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the US and Russian arsenals. It's about the same size as France's (250 - 300 warheads) but China doesn't have a deployable ballistic missile submarine fleet to provide the sine qua non of the Big Boys, a guaranteed second-strike retaliatory capability. They're working on building that capability but it's not operational at the moment.

      China has signed but not yet ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) but its last shot was in 1996 after 45 tests in total. The only other nation in the Big Five who has not ratified the CTBT is the US who stopped testing in 1992 after firing off over 1000 devices.

    • There won't be a war over this. There have been situations must worst involving China and China's most hated country resulted in nothing (citation needed? Here it is:http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/25/us-japan-china-idUSBREA4O01920140525)

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @02:23PM (#49448303)

    Its very depressing that the democratic process can fail badly enough to not only put but keep clearly incompetent judges and politicians in complete control of legislating on stuff like this that they clearly don't understand.

    There needs to be an active mechanism in government that weeds incompetence and ignorance out of the system.

  • ... all the surplused servers are packed into shipping containers and sent overseas to be torn down for recycling. And the pile will be picked through for the working systems, of course.

  • I think all of the chips I've bought from Intel have been made in Malaysia or China. This is probably one of those, hey the chips are fabricated in China. But don't you dare sell the units to them. So China just operates a midnight shift, presses their own, and America loses out on revenue.

    • I think all of the chips I've bought from Intel have been made in Malaysia or China.

      Intel is actually substantially bizarre in their practices. The chips themselves are made in the US billion dollar fabs. Then very carefully packed into shipping containers and shipped to Malaysia, where they are removed from the shipping containers and inserted into the production packages. And then shipped to China and Taiwan to be put on boards (and small amounts back to the US to be sold retail by NewEgg).

      Why the chip packaging step isn't so completely automated that it can be done for peanuts on sit

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Friday April 10, 2015 @02:54PM (#49448635)

    Nothing on the magnitude of North Korea or Iran. Not even on the same order as Russia. But it's clear that China is not in the global market for altrustic purposes. They're an economic superpower, and they're going defend that. They're unlike to attack the US, though. But mostly beause they sell most of their products to us, not for any other reason. If I were in the Chinese government, I'd be scared of North Korea and want to maintain a defense.

    So the US DoD and DoC have to weigh the slight risk of China deciding some day to come in and take over the US against the more immediate benefits of China drawing NK's attention away from us and being part of the general defense against NK's batshit craziness.

    • Nothing on the magnitude of North Korea or Iran. Not even on the same order as Russia. But it's clear that China is not in the global market for altrustic purposes. They're an economic superpower, and they're going defend that. They're unlike to attack the US, though. But mostly beause they sell most of their products to us, not for any other reason. If I were in the Chinese government, I'd be scared of North Korea and want to maintain a defense.

      So the US DoD and DoC have to weigh the slight risk of China deciding some day to come in and take over the US against the more immediate benefits of China drawing NK's attention away from us and being part of the general defense against NK's batshit craziness.

      Yes, if I were China I would be heavily investing in tactical nukes to deal with North Korea in the event of serious invasion. They would be a backup plan, but a backup plan I'd want to have.

      I would also invest in conventional preparedness for it. Fundamentally you need to maintain air superiority, have good surveillance, and have a whole lot of cluster bombs. For political reasons you'd want some smart bombs too, but mostly you'd want cluster bombs.

      Third, you'd be ready for a full propaganda war undermi

  • Intel USA can sell to Inter-Ireland, which will sell it to China. Probably it is already doing it for double Irish tax dodge. That is probably why Intel did not protest too much and agreed to play along.

    The logic seems to be, "we got to do something", "this is stupid", "stupid or not it is something that can be done" "so let us do the stupid thing"

  • Intel just received a flood of orders from China. Thousands of people have each ordered one Xeon processor each.

  • The Central Committee sighs, hacks Intel, steals entirety of IP over lunch hour.
  • They'll use $20 bills instead. Multicore processors with networking interfaces are in your phone, manufactured in South Korea and .... (wait for it) China! Okay, so it might take a bit more of them to get the same processing power, or it might take the Chinese longer to run their simulation, but they ain't stoppin' nobody.
  • This is how Wipro got started, by building PDP-11 clones because of export bans. The Soviets also got around export restrictions as well. [wikipedia.org] It's never helped prohibit a adversary from getting what they want even when they have to build it themselves and at great cost. [wikipedia.org]

  • Everybody seems to be saying: "Oh noes, this is soooo bad! It's gonna make China get up off its ass and finally give Intel some actual competition!!!"

    And here I am, thinking that we all stand to benefit if Intel got some actual competition.

  • Isn't the definition of a super computer... a massively parallel computer?

    So let's say I ban the highest Xeons.

    ...

    Can't they just buy more middle-tier Xeons?

    Furthermore, why the hell would they need a bleeding-edge super computer to accomplish something we did without any super computers in the 40's? A single iPhone has more power than the ENIAC... a TI-83 does too.

    Lastly, you don't need modern nukes to become a part of the alliance of nuclear deterrent. You just need nukes that work.

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