china: What’s a supercomputer? How the US will determine who to punish with China tech curbs


Deciding who will get damage by sweeping new US curbs on promoting know-how to China will come down partly to what constitutes a “supercomputer,” consultants advised Reuters.

All over the world, the semiconductor business on Friday started to wrestle with wide-ranging US restrictions on promoting chips and chip manufacturing tools to China.

Shares of chip tools makers drooped, however business consultants stated a brand new US definition of a supercomputer may very well be pivotal to the brand new guidelines’ affect on China.

Supercomputers can be utilized in creating nuclear weapons and different navy applied sciences, and consultants say the way to outline them has lengthy bedeviled regulators attempting to pin down an ever-advancing technological goal.

The brand new American guidelines outline supercomputers broadly when it comes to computing energy in an outlined house: a machine with 100 petaflops – the power to hold out 100 trillion operations per second – in 41,600 cubic ft, with another caveats.

Senior authorities officers stated in a media briefing that their intention was to focus on solely China’s most superior methods that would symbolize a nationwide safety risk to the United States somewhat than business exercise.

However consultants puzzled whether or not Chinese language tech giants’ densely packed knowledge facilities owned by the likes of Alibaba Group Holding or TikTok-owner ByteDance may quickly attain supercomputer standing primarily based on the brand new definition, even when that’s not what US regulators meant.

“Knowledge middle build-outs like Alibaba or ByteDance would have the potential to succeed in petaflop build-outs,” stated CCS Insight chip analyst Wayne Lam stated.

The brand new definition is unlikely to alter as business know-how improves. Present-day Chinese language supercomputers might sooner or later turn into the company customary, however they’ll nonetheless face the bounds imposed Friday to cease any chip made with US tools or know-how from going into China. Firms “might very properly run into supercomputing limitations throughout the subsequent couple of years,” Lam stated.

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Jack Dongarra, a professor of pc science who helps lead a bunch referred to as TOP500 that ranks the world’s quickest supercomputers, stated he disagreed with the static definition.

“The problem is that the definition of a supercomputer will change over time,” he stated by e-mail.

Main Chinese language corporations with large knowledge facilities resembling Baidu, Alibaba and ByteDance didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark. Tencent declined to remark.

The definition of computing energy per cubic foot additionally might provide room for inventive workarounds. For example, stated one knowledgeable, use fiber optic cables to tie collectively immense computing energy over a bigger house.

“They may unfold their supercomputers out over a bigger house,” stated one chip and knowledge middle knowledgeable who requested anonymity as a result of politically charged nature of the brand new guidelines.

“The common supercomputer architect would say, ‘That is not how issues are achieved!’ However not with the ability to do it one other manner breeds lots of creativity, and willingness to do issues otherwise.”

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