Intel, Cray Picked for $200 Million Supercomputer Project
The Upload: Your tech news briefing for Friday, April 10.
A Chinese supercomputer ranked fastest in the world four years running could soon slip from that top spot: Intel, the US-based microprocessor maker, says it’s been blocked by the US government from selling chips to China.The arrival of the Apple Watch in stores across Asia on Friday failed to draw the same crowds that greeted the launch of the iPhone 6—a sign, perhaps, that Apple fans are prepared to queue overnight to buy, but not just to try.U.S. officials are blocking technology exports to facilities in China associated with the world’s fastest supercomputer, a blow to Intel Corp. and other hardware suppliers that adds to the list of tech tensions between the two countries.
Representatives for Intel Corp. confirmed to the Wall Street Journal this week that it’s stopped shipping microprocessor chips to Chinese customers after the US Department of Commerce announced recently with little fanfare that its begun restricting exports to certain entities there over national security concerns. According to the Commerce Dept., the chips are powering high-speed supercomputers being used to conduct nuclear research on behalf of the Chinese government. Specifically, the notice says that “NUDT has used US-origin multicores, boards and processors to produce the TianHe-A and TianHe-2 supercomputers located at the National Supercomputer Centers in Changsha, Guangzhou and Tianjin.” The Tihane-2 was named in 2014 as the world’s top supercomputer for the fourth consecutive year by TOP500 project, a group that has been rating high-speed machines since the early 90s. But battery life, computing performance, and that single USB Type-C port are all coming down in the “cons” column, with an emerging consensus that the smart money might hold on to that current MacBook Air and wait for the 2016 version of the new model.
Intel was denied an export license late last fall to supply more chips associated to Chinese supercomputer projects, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said Tuesday. Once an entity is added to Commerce Dept.’s “Entity List,” American firms must obtain a specialized export license to send products there, the Journal reported. The distributed denial of service attacks against GitHub last month, which were traced to China, are now being linked to a new cyber-weapon that security researchers are calling the Great Cannon, the New York Times reports. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, three of the centers, and Chinese computer maker Inspur Group Co.-which helped build the machine-didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Top500 project says the Tianhe-2 “has 16,000 nodes, each with two Intel Xeon IvyBridge processors and three Xeon Phi processors for a combined total of 3,120,000 computing cores.” The BBC reported that the machine uses that power to crunch numbers at a speed of 33 petaflops – or roughly 33 quadrillion calculations per second. In January it was predicting a 2.4 percent increase for the year, but now the research firm sees a decrease of $3.66 trillion in 2015, down 1.3 percent from last year, Computerworld reports. The blockage comes at a time when U.S. technology companies are grappling with Beijing’s proposed new restrictions on their ability to do business in the vast Chinese market amid rising concerns there over cybersecurity.
The companies are protesting China’s new banking-technology procurement rules as well as a proposed counterterrorism law that they say are overly invasive and involve handing over sensitive material. Supercomputers-room-sized systems that yoke together large numbers of processor chips-are often used in weapons research, code breaking, weather forecasting and many scientific disciplines. The Webpage Screenshot extension—not the one with the same name that is still in the store, CW says—transmitted users’ locations, URLs and tab titles of pages they browsed, and also assigned a unique ID to each user. French-language TV network TV5Monde was back online yesterday after being hit by a crippling cyberattack Wednesday that disrupted broadcasting across its channels and also involved the hijacking of its website and social media accounts. The Tianhe-2 system in 2013 vaulted to the top of a twice-yearly ranking of supercomputers, based on its performance on a series of standard computing tests.
Central Command earlier this year. “It’s the algorithm,” tech companies say with a shrug, when systems they’ve created have less than desirable real-world effects. China significantly lags behind the U.S. in chip design, though the government has been bankrolling research to improve the capabilities of local chip makers. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said the U.S. restrictions in the long run will help Chinese chip makers and hurt U.S. companies. “The Chinese will be more incentivized to develop their own technology, and U.S. manufacturers will be seen as less reliable and potentially not able to satisfy foreign orders,” Mr.
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