US Gov stops Intel updating China’s supercomputer

White House intervenes to prevent Intel sending China Xeon chips for planned upgrade

Supercomputer

Nuclear fears have prompted the US government to intervene in Intel's efforts to upgrade China's supercomputer.

Intel informed the government of its plans to export tens of thousands of chips to help China push the world's largest supercomputer, the Tianhe-2, past 110 petaflops.

But the Department of Commerce told the firm to apply for an export licence, which it promptly rejected, claiming China would use the supercomputer for research into "nuclear explosive activities".

The Tianhe-2 relies on 80,000 Intel Xeon chips to generate 33 petaflops one petaflop is equivalent to one quadrillion calculations per second.

But now China will have to develop the extra chips itself if it wants to complete the upgrade programme.

Intel is in fact working with the US on a 136 million deal to build a huge supercomputer, called Aurora, at a national laboratory in Illinois.

At 180 petaflops, the machine would dwarf the Tianhe-2, which has led the list of the Top 500 supercomputers since June 2013.

In a statement to IDG news service, Intel said: "Intel complied with the notification and applied for the licence, which was denied. We are in compliance with the US law."

Of the top 10 supercomputers in the world, six reside in the US, according to the Top 500 list, with three belonging to the US government.

China (with its Tianhe-2), Germany, Switzerland and Japan hold the other four top 10 positions.

HP has most supercomputer systems in the list with 179, compared to IBM with 153 systems as of November 2014.

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