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AMD processors made their way from Dubi to Iran, only to show up in Iran's most powerful supercomputer

Iran has a supercomputer constructed with 216 AMD processors, and it's got a lot of websites pretty mad. 

The whole thing reads like an advertisement really.  "An enormously powerful supercomputer" proclaims Slashdot. "such advanced U.S. computing technology is a real breach in U.S. sanctions," warns a UPI editor.

It's true that U.S. semiconductors are banned from entering Iranian borders, but I wonder if those editors know the computing power 860 gigaFLOPS really commands in the HPC world.

A total of four PlayStation 3s running Linux have just a hair less computing power than this computer.  A pair of IBM's newest and tiniest BladeCenter QS21 servers would out-compute Iran's new supercomputer without breaking a sweat.

InformationWeek was quick to get a quote on the story: "AMD fully complies with all United States export control laws, and all authorized distributors of AMD products have contractually committed to AMD that they will do the same with respect to their sales and shipments of AMD products ... Any shipment of AMD products to Iran by any authorized distributor of AMD would be a breach of the specific provisions of their contracts with AMD."

Just for comparison, IBM's BlueGene/L, the world's fastest publicly-known supercomputer, runs at a mere 478 teraFLOPs.

Amirkabir University of Technology, owner of the supercomputer, claims the system is for weather forecasting -- incidentally using the MM5 platform developed by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research.


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Except...
By Zurtex on 12/11/2007 10:14:17 PM , Rating: 2
That's not quite true as it's both easier to write things for AMD x86 chips than it is for Cell CPUs and AMDs x86 chips do general things faster than Cells do.

Somehow I doubt down at the meteorological department they have dozens of PS3's running their system.




RE: Except...
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/11/2007 10:44:07 PM , Rating: 4
MM5 runs just fine on Cell BE actually.


RE: Except...
By s12033722 on 12/12/2007 12:59:17 PM , Rating: 2
You assume that they really are running MM5, at least full time. I don't think that's a valid assumption. Also, while in terms of pure computational capability the Cell-based solutions may be able to compete, when you consider the extremely narrow field of computations Cell is capable of running efficiently and you also take into account the vastly superior cache and memory scheme that is a part of a system like the one Iran has built, comparisions between PS3s and that system become silly.

The argument this blog is pushing is similar to the following made-up example: Iran just purchased 16" artillery pieces, but my .22 has the same muzzle velocity as those artillery pieces, so who cares? They can do the same thing!

Obviously, if you choose a very narrow set of capabilities to analyze, comparisions between a 200+ node supercomputer (admittedly on the small end of supercomputers) and PS3s or other Cell-based systems can be made. When you look at them as total systems, however, it's really quite blatent that such comparisions are trite. Make the point that supercomputer is small, but don't bring the PS3 nonsense into it.


RE: Except...
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/12/2007 1:32:31 PM , Rating: 5
Well, I thought that was a pretty safe assumption since it says all over the EDU website its going to be running MM5 full time :-P


RE: Except...
By s12033722 on 12/18/2007 4:28:46 PM , Rating: 2
What I was getting at is that I don't exactly trust the Iranians to be shining examples of truth and transparency. Just because they say it will be running MM5 doesn't mean it's so.... ;)


RE: Except...
By sinful on 12/14/2007 2:01:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Make the point that supercomputer is small, but don't bring the PS3 nonsense into it.


Agreed, the PS3 comparison is totally nonsense.

The Cell is a special purpose chip that does well in a specific specialty subset and extremely poorly outside its niche.

The AMD based super computer is pretty much the swiss-army knife of supercomputing - it can do anything, and do it well.

Comparing the two is extremely misleading because of massive differences in architecture.

What is really amazing is how so many people hype the Cell.

The Cell's only real claim to fame is throwing lots and lots of Mhz at the problem, with a bunch of cores.
That's it. Each individual core is relatively primative.

In fact, a Cell is not much more than 8 486's @ 3.2Ghz glued together with better IO.
Each core in a Cell is ridiculously simple - but when you have 8 cores, and they're all running at 3.2Ghz, you can get good performance out of them in certain situations.


RE: Except...
By wordsworm on 12/12/2007 2:38:42 AM , Rating: 1
So, does that mean you think that Iran might have to buy Japanese CPUs to create supercomputers? How viable would it be to start making powerful servers from Sony's cells? I can't help but think that Sony would love to become a player in that market.


RE: Except...
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/12/2007 3:12:01 AM , Rating: 2
They are already. That's why I mentioned the Cell BE servers from IBM.


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