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US Gov't Blocks Sales To Russian Supercomputer Maker 116

Posted by timothy
from the all-knowing-state dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "T-Platforms, which manufactured the fastest supercomputer in Russia (and twenty-sixth fastest in the world), has been placed on the IT equivalent of the no-fly list. In March, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security added T-Platforms' businesses in Germany, Russia and Taiwan to the 'Entity List,' which includes those believed to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. U.S. IT companies are essentially banned from doing business with T-Platforms, especially with regards to HPC hardware such as microprocessors, which could be used for what the government views as illegal purposes. The rule, discovered by HPCWire, was published in March. According to the rule, Commerce's End-User Review Committee (ERC) believes that T-Platforms may be assisting the Russian government and military conduct nuclear research — which, given historical tensions between the two countries, apparently falls outside the bounds of permitted use. An email address that T-Platforms listed for its German office bounced, and Slashdot was unable to reach executives at its Russian headquarters for comment."
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US Gov't Blocks Sales To Russian Supercomputer Maker

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  • by drinkydoh (2658743) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @12:52PM (#43423829)
    These artificial limitations on what and with who US companies can work with are just creating a wall between US and other countries. The nations that mainly benefit from this are Russia and China and they can do a lot of business and even military research together. Not only that but Russia and China have always been good friends, even after soviet russia fell down.

    Therefore, both Russia and China wins and US loses.
    • Not only that but Russia and China have always been good friends, even after soviet russia fell down.

      Friends with whom? With each other I will agree to; There is considerable tension in the past between the US and the USSR, as well as the current issues between the US and China and the US and Soviet Union.

      • by unixisc (2429386)
        Except that Russia has changed a whole lot since the Soviet Union disintegrated, but for the US bureaucrats, nothing happened. Hence, in their foreign policy analysis, Russia is still considered an enemy, which is why you see moronic Western support to Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo and anything that's anti-Slavic.
      • The comment read to me that Russia and China are friends, not that the US and China/Russia are friends,

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...Russia and China have always been good friends, even after soviet russia fell down.

      I guess you never heard of the Sino-Soviet Split then? Other than that, I agree with you. The US is only harming itself by alienating Russia and China. They will now have more incentive to work together, and with the amount of money their economies are pulling in it will only be a matter of time before they overtake the West.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by ackthpt (218170)

      These artificial limitations on what and with who US companies can work with are just creating a wall between US and other countries. The nations that mainly benefit from this are Russia and China and they can do a lot of business and even military research together. Not only that but Russia and China have always been good friends, even after soviet russia fell down.

      Therefore, both Russia and China wins and US loses.

      It's time to stop pretending all this is going to work. If anyone in the world wants software or hardware it's pretty easy to get it.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:21PM (#43424187) Homepage

        It's time to stop pretending all this is going to work. If anyone in the world wants software or hardware it's pretty easy to get it.

        It works as well as expected. It slows things down but doesn't pretend stop the flow of information completely. Nobody except the black and white brigade thinks otherwise. Slowing your enemy down is a useful strategic goal. And, in this case, Russia and China are enemies in the great game.

        And lots of things aren't 'easy' to get. You might get the part. You won't get much support. And in complex tech, support is often a deal breaker.

        • by stanlyb (1839382)
          Only if having a local dedicated support team is expensive. And guess what, it is true only in US.
        • by TheCarp (96830)

          Sure sure, but does this really apply as well to your frenemies?

          Lets be serious, there is no real concern with the USSR having a nuclear program. If there is any country in the entire world where we have less interest in interfereing with their nuclear program, I don't know who it is. To call this a day late and a dollar short is being generous.

          So whats the REAL issue? Because this sort of pissing back and forth tends to be over far more petty and mundane issues than pretending to be actual enemies.

      • The U.S. isn't necessarily trying to stop other parts of the world (South Africa) from buying supercomputers from Russia. They are worried that banks or other infrastructure in the U.S. will buy computers that could easily be compromised by many back doors. I don't think this is going to work out well anyway.

        If anything requires that much security, thats one heck of a complex project that I don't even know if it could be successfully implemented without going to "dangerous, un-audited" sources of labor, par

        • This is about supercomputers used for scientific modelling, not servers for banks or infrastructure.
          • by ackthpt (218170)

            This is about supercomputers used for scientific modelling, not servers for banks or infrastructure.

            Which are supercomputers of another sort, but supercomputers nonetheless.

          • In which case we'd be really shooting our scientists in the foot by limiting their options severely. Well I guess maybe not that bad considering SRI international is now in charge of operations over at Arecibo and they are maybe a bit less affected by this. But there are still plenty of smaller universities, schools, and corporations that could use scientific computing on the cheep. (yes they need small "supercomputers" to do digital analysis on the insane amounts of data that is collected). This should be

      • by poity (465672) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @02:00PM (#43424597)

        You're making the assumption that the US's plan rests entirely in closing the "open market" gate. Of course it won't stop unwanted tech transfer, so of course it can't be the whole plan, because there will always be black markets and back channels. However, those routes are places where intelligence agencies thrive, and by limiting the avenues of sale, the US makes it more likely that the Russian company or their proxies stumble across CIA-compromised suppliers. It doesn't stop a determined buyer, but it will make that buyer think twice, use more diligence, and generally expend more time, effort and resources to avoid falling into such traps, which, given enough of these speed bumps, will make their project increasingly cost-prohibitive. That's what I think they're doing -- they know they can't stop it, so making Russia pay out the ass to accomplish their goal is the next best option.

      • by cusco (717999)
        Back in the '80s IBM was prohibited from selling computers to the USSR by the US government. They built a factory in Tacna, Peru, and that subsidiary merrily sold the Soviets all the computers they could come up with cash for.
      • by RockDoctor (15477)
        ... and embargoes are pretty easily circumvented. All this does is add another level of "piss the customer off" to the process.
    • by Minter92 (148860) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:10PM (#43424027)

      Not only that but Russia and China have always been good friends, even after soviet russia fell down.

      Actually this statement is inaccurate. Russia and China have been antagonistic toward each other through most of the past. There was a short period of cooperation after the Chinese civil war but that quickly turned sour as the two countries differed in their approaches to communism. Relations only began to improve after the fall of the USSR

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The USSR and China were not always good friends. Research Eisenhower's foreign policy and the difference between urban industrial focused communism and rural agrarian focused communism.

    • by hjf (703092) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @02:12PM (#43424771) Homepage

      Argentina tried to buy 5 nVidia TESLA units. We bought 4 and when we ordered the 5th (a public university here in Argentina) the US export controls kicked in. They had to send someone to the US to explain why they wanted "so much computing power".

      We were developing a UHD 3D video codec.

      (We as in Argentina. I have no participation in that).

      Argentina is not China, Russia, and has never been an enemy, or at war, with USA.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        The US provided material support to the UK in the Falklands War and promised manpower if the UK lost an aircraft carrier. Which is just about as close to "enemy" as you get.

        • by hjf (703092)

          The US has decided to remain neutral in the Malvinas affair in the past few years. Which is just about as close to an "ally" as we can get.

        • by lxs (131946)

          The US has in the past been at war with Japan as well. Are there restrictions on selling GPUs to Japan? My point is, times change as do allegiances. Besides, if US business is so powerful then why does it still allow the military to tell them who to sell to?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        >Argentina is not China, Russia, and has never been an enemy, or at war, with USA.

        The USA has always been at war with Argentina.

      • by cusco (717999)
        Argentina doesn't cooperate nicely with the New York bankers any more. They're paying off loans early, not selling of their infrastructure for pennies on the dollar, and generally acting like they're more concerned for the benefit of their own citizens rather than the mega-corporations. In Washington DC that's seen as 'hostile' actions.
        • Would those loans that they are supposedly paying back early be the same ones they have defaulted on and are refusing to pay? Those same outstanding loans that are forcing the government to send public owned ships and aircraft to known safe way points and then having to lease third party aircraft to complete the journeys, just incase creditors have the presidents aircraft repossessed?

    • These artificial limitations on what and with who US companies can work with are just creating a wall between US and other countries.

      The wall is full of holes. Companies can still sell equipment to a middleman that then resells to Russia. Even if this is forbidden, it is completely unenforceable if the middleman is not a US company.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just let China/Taiwan sell it to them !!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 11, 2013 @12:56PM (#43423875)

    Slashdot was unable to reach executives at its Russian headquarters for comment."

    Executive's secretary: "Sir, Slashdot wants to talk to you."

    Russian Executive: *rolling eyes* "That's OK. No need to respond I know what they're going say. 'In Soviet Russia Super Computers you!'"

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @12:59PM (#43423893) Journal

    Hi, this is Timothy from Slashdot, I'd like to speak to...

    *click*

    I find it very amusing to think of Timothy calling up a company in Russia for comment on why they just got blacklisted by the US Gov't. I'm not sure why, though it could be because every time I see his name on the editor line I think of the monkey from ThinkGeek.

    • Any one that would use Slashdot in their greeting would be hung up on. "Oh Slashdot, that website with all those shit disturbers...we will get back to you on that."
    • by khallow (566160)

      I find it very amusing to think of Timothy calling up a company in Russia for comment on why they just got blacklisted by the US Gov't.

      I guess you've never tried. I talked to the US Department of Treasury once as a member of the press merely by being a volunteer for a not for profit prediction market which in case you're wondering is a lot less authoritative a position than being a Slashdot editor (though better than a drunk in bar). Some will talk to you. Some won't. All it takes is a telephone call or email to find out.

    • by guttentag (313541)
      (On the second attempt, Timothy calls again using a blatantly falsetto voice)

      Timothy: Hi, this is Dawn Kawamoto [slashdot.org] from Dice. I'd like to speak to...
      Russian: Did you just call five minutes ago pretending [slashdot.org] to be from Slashdot [slashdot.org]?
      Timothy: Maybe... it's hard to keep track these days.
      Russian: *click*

      In Soviet Russia, Slashdot editor pretend to be Dice news editor
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      the email bounced. that's the equivalent of them not wanting any contacts in a method they themselves advertise to be contacted at. are they in business even? and if they are why wouldn't they spin the business to another company name to buy cpu's..

      and companies respond to reporters from far shadier web pages than slashdot(i'd be willing to bet money on that 70% of the upper tier of people in the company know about slashdot anyways).

  • If it is to use russian space station, they are good enough to be friends, but if it is to actually lend them some computer power, they become enemy!!! No, really, what the heck!
    And, just for the record, i don't see how this ban would stop them to buy the parts directly from the manufacturer, China.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:24PM (#43424241) Homepage

      Have you ever stopped to consider that human relationships are complicated? People write books about this sort of thing. Plays and movies even. Tears are shed, bottles of booze drank and broken. Wars started. Wars ended.

      I mean, people Tweet about this stuff!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        But the Chinese don't like Vodka! lol

        You think the geeks here know anything about human relations or politics? Look around, they probably don't even know that in the 1930's U.S. Republicans aligned against Hitler, with the U.S. Commies, and the same "doggedly uncompromising" Republicans then villified their temporary friends in the 50's, when McCarthy decided that it benefitted their new, uncompromising politics. (By the way I just found out that 3 of the U.S. military leaders charged with violently remov

    • I mean there's Intel.. wait, no, they fab their stuff almost entirely in the US, though also some in Israel. Ok well those bastards at AMD... wait, no, they use Globalfoundries who is in Germany, the US, and Singapore (the NY plant being where the new stuff comes from). Ok well IBM surely those cheap... wait, no, they are in the US as well for fabrication (NY and NJ).

      So, ummm, precisely which US chip maker do you think has their stuff in China? Because I don't know of one.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        it doesn't matter where they fab them. it matters that the company does business in USA - germany isn't in USA, but amd can't waive their american business.

        welcome to business bullying 101 and why someone would want a supercomputer built out of chinese mips cpu's...

  • gotcha, caught 'ya, General Ivan

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No problems, China can just manufacture any kind of electronics component the Russians are interested in buying, and then deny sales of the same components to the US citing the same reasons. Now the rest of the world can trade and grow together while the US can isolate itself and sit in the Atlantic being as superior as it wants.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:07PM (#43423979)
    Da, may I have 10,000 PS4s please?

    .
    • PS4s aren't going to be like PS3s with their super-fancy specialized processors that intrigued some super-computer builders--those gave the developers fits. While it's not going to use a PC architecture, you're not going to see any technology in it that you can't get in a high-end PC with high-powered graphic cards. For non-gaming purposes, you might as well just buy PCs; they'll be easier to configure and use for non-gaming purposes.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        While it's not going to use a PC architecture, you're not going to see any technology in it that you can't get in a high-end PC with high-powered graphic cards.

        I think that was GP's point. The US has (apparently) said that you can't export high-end PC processors to Russia, so the obvious work-around is to buy toys that have PC-caliber processing power

  • LOL; does not matter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:11PM (#43424047) Journal
    Our executives have been offshoring all of our technology. As such, all we did was move this company over to China who using our technology, some stolen, but far too much was given. Just for a few dollars.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:14PM (#43424079)

    This is fairly common knowledge in the electronics industry, that anything that can be used in nuclear weapon R&D is export controlled and taken very seriously by the Commerce department. I work for a company that makes extremely fast oscilloscopes. We can't sell anything without an export license that can acquire data faster than a certain sample rate to Russia, Isreal, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, and several other countries due to nuclear non-proliferation. This is a separate restriction from ITAR, which bans anything related to weapons R&D from export without a license. This doesn't mean that you can't export these things, just that you need approval to do it. Much of Europe and countries who are friendly with the US have similar legal constraints.

    • And this constraint is used to undermine the industries and national security capabilities of other countries.
      • So? Don't like it? Build it yourself. I don't see anything stopping you from doing that.

        • by ogdenk (712300)

          When's the last time a US company actually built a US product in the US with US workers?

          This is a pissing contest, plain and simple. If Russia wanted to nuke us, we'd be dead already. I'm pretty sure any CPU made in the last 15 years in sufficient quantities would make a decent supercomputing platform for nuclear research.

          This is a move to prevent competition.

          I'm sure the Chinese will help them out. They have that little MIPS clone they're fond of.

          • When's the last time a US company actually built a US product in the US with US workers?

            Don't like it? Make us do it without your country's help. Who said it was a one-way street?

  • In response Russia should ban someone like Microsoft for working against its foreign policy interests. Russia is already a nuclear power -- what advantages or threats is this going to bring to the world? This is about undermining Russian industry and nothing else. It's a sort of economic warfare.
  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:24PM (#43424217)

    An email address that T-Platforms listed for its German office bounced, and Slashdot was unable to reach executives at its Russian headquarters for comment."

    That's because T-Platforms has gone out of business. Most unfortunate.

    However, there's somebody here from a new supercomputer company "U-Platforms", that would like to speak with you about purchasing some HPC microprocessors...

  • Yikes, who knows what kind of things would happen if the Russians ever get their hands on a nuke! We've got to stop them from developing nucular weapons at all costs, or they'll corrupt our precious bodily fluids!
  • by Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:43PM (#43424407)

    T-platforms is a Russian company headquartered in Moscow. This is no more surprising than Boeing selling military equipment to the USA.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:43PM (#43424419) Homepage

    US export control on computers needs to stop. The need for it ended decades ago. All US nuclear weapons were designed with computers below 10 MIPS, and in many cases below 1 MIPS. (The most recent US nuclear weapon design is from the mid-1970s.) The problem isn't getting any harder.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      no, most recent US. weapons designs are from at least the late 80s, even though those weapons not deployed some test versions made.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      you forget maintenance of an aging fleet of weapons does require supercomputers, quite powerful ones

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        you forget maintenance of an aging fleet of weapons does require supercomputers, quite powerful ones

        sure, if the contractor says so.

        there's other stuff to calculate with them though and I guess designing bombs you're never going to even attempt at building is a pretty good business.

        • by rubycodez (864176)

          it's not the contractors that say so, it is the reality of aging explosive lenses, initiators, neutron reflectors, etc. the alternative is live testing.

    • US export control on computers needs to stop. The need for it ended decades ago. All US nuclear weapons were designed with computers below 10 MIPS, and in many cases below 1 MIPS. (The most recent US nuclear weapon design is from the mid-1970s.) The problem isn't getting any harder.

      While a computer helps a great deal, the US also had years of experience, a brigade of experienced designers, a well tested and proven set of basic components (especially the primary) and could haul a candidate device out into th

      • by jabuzz (182671)

        While that might well be true, Russia is not a modern wannabe nuclear state, having detonated it's first atomic weapon in 1949 and first thermonuclear weapon in 1953. That's a whole 60 years ago.

        • No, but like us their weapons establishment has been drawn way down (dissipating their experience base) and they're also limited by the current test ban. There's no particular reason to help them, and they've been... less than judicious about who they share technology with in the past, which gives further reason not to help them.

          And I really wish people would stop talking about what happened decades ago as if it were in any way relevant to current conditions. (Especially when they're unfamiliar with those

    • the restrictions are not because the processors might be used in weapons, but that they can be configured into supercomputers / clusters to SIMULATE the weapons ignition / blast profiles - blast-less weapons experimentation / testing
  • Attributed to Vladimir Lenin, though I am unable to verify. Either way, all the world's governments are confirming the statement.

  • Since when did Slashdot start doing real journalism?

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @07:09PM (#43428145)

    ARM CPU's manufactured at TSMC completely removes the US from the supply chain. Paying royalties to a British company and manufacturing in Taiwan.

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