Feeds

Bill Clinton relaxes supercomputer exports

PC clusters make regs pointless

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

The White House announced Wednesday that it would ease export restrictions on high-speed supercomputers, expanding the list of nations to which US companies can ship powerful systems without obtaining prior approval from the Department of Commerce.

Because supercomputers are vital to nuclear weapons design and other military applications, export restriction were crafted during the cold war era to keep heavy silicon out of the hands of rogue nations or potential adversaries. But as processing power of common desktop machines skyrocketed each year, the government struggled to keep pace, and industry became frustrated by the regulatory fetters on international sales.

Not surprisingly, industry sources welcomed Wednesday's announcement. "We applaud the Clinton Administration's ability to keep government regulations in line with the rapid pace of technological change," IBM chief Lou Gerstner said in a statement. "We have worked successfully with them over the past eight years to strike the appropriate balance between protecting our nation's national security and promoting its economic interests."

The new rules will eliminate the need for companies to obtain individual licenses before shipping supercomputers to Lithuania, South and Central America, South Korea, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and most of Africa. Seven terrorist-supporting states remain blacklisted entirely. Other regions remain restricted, including India, Pakistan and the former Soviet Union, but the ceiling on processing power has been raised: licensing requirements will only kick-in for computers that can perform at least 85,000 million theoretical operations per second (MTOPS), up from the old limit of 28,000 MTOPS.

This seemingly straightforward calculus becomes fuzzy when you consider that a purchaser can create their own 85,000 MTOPS machine by networking together eighty-five 1000 MTOPS computers, or approximately fifty Pentium III boxes. The open source Beowulf Project puts Linux-based home brew supercomputing within reach of even the most impoverished would-be villain.

The Administration acknowledged that reality in Wednesday's announcement, calling the ease of clustering computers "the single most important challenge to the ability to effectively control computer hardware." After a two-year study the White House concluded that efforts to control hardware are largely futile.

The White House "would prefer to remove most controls on computer hardware exports," while restricting software proliferation, but chose to leave that decision for the incoming Bush Administration.

© 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Fast And Furious 6 cammer thrown in slammer for nearly three years
Man jailed for dodgy cinema recording of Hollywood movie
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?