Iranian computing center removes photos of Opteron system from Web site

Picture pointing to UAE as technology source disappears; U.S. concerns about that country's role as a transfer point remain

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Foulon didn't name any of the countries that would be included on the new list. But prior to explaining the Country Group C concept to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, he cited a case in which a company in the UAE was believed to "have acquired U.S.-origin components capable of being used to construct improvised explosive devices or other devices that have been, and may continue to be, used against coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The Commerce Department sought comments on the proposed rule last spring. Among the organizations writing in opposition (download PDF) was the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which said that it had imported a total of nearly $12 billion worth of goods from the U.S. If the UAE "is designated as a 'diversion country' and strict licensing requirements are put on U.S. goods, such goods will likely be sourced from alternative countries other than the U.S.," the chamber warned.

But the Washington-based Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control wrote in support of the proposed designation and provided documentation supporting its contention that diversions of goods through the UAE "continue to the present day."

The IHPCRC is located at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran. The center said on its Web site that the Opteron-based system runs Linux and is capable of performing 860 billion floating-point operations per second, or gigaflops -- a relatively slow throughput rate for a supercomputer.

Attempts to reach officials at the IHPCRC for comment on the Opteron-based system and the apparent UAE connection have been unsuccessful. But Bahman Javadi, a researcher at the Iranian facility, responded via e-mail today to earlier, unrelated questions about supercomputing in Iran and the IHPCRC's goals.

"Our main object is providing an environment to develop scientific ideas of high-performance computing," Javadi wrote. "Although our interest is focused on some research topics of HPC systems, we may also assemble some cluster systems for civil applications outside the university."

Javadi's last statement would fit with the IHPCRC's stated uses of the Opteron-based system, and with its description of the purged photos that appeared to depict the process of assembling the supercomputer. The research center said as part of the now-removed photo gallery that the staffers shown in those photos were working on the "cluster of IRIMO," an acronym for a meteorological organization in Iran.

In response to a question about whether the IHPCRC should have a system included on the Top500 list of the most powerful supercomputers worldwide, Javadi wrote: "We have never been in [the] Top500 list, and at the moment we have no plan in this regard."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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