AMD Chips Used in Iranian HPC for Rocket Research

An Iranian research institute claims that it used AMD Opteron microprocessors to build a high-performance computing system, one more sign that the U.S. trade embargo on Iran isn't hindering that country's ability to import high-tech equipment.

The Aerospace Research Institute of Iran (ARI) posted a document on its Web site that describes a high-performance computer using dual-core chips from Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

The ARI, a government ministry, was founded in 1999 to conduct "aerospace science and technology" research, according to its Web site.

The site says that the SUSE Linux-based HPC system was launched with 32 cores and now runs 96 cores. Its performance was pegged at 192 GFLOPS.

It's unclear exactly when the Iranians started building the system.

"It is more than troubling that an Iranian aerospace entity, affiliated with the government and involved in sophisticated missile research and production, is using U.S. computer equipment for its development work," said Valerie Lincy, editor of Iran Watch, a Web site published by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

In a statement, AMD said that it can't speculate as to how the processors could have been shipped to Iran.

"AMD has never authorized any sales or shipments of AMD products to Iran or any other embargoed country, either directly or indirectly," the company said.

Mehdi Noorbaksh, an associate professor of international affairs at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania, said that Iran buys its technology mostly on the black market.

"That market provides Iran with what the authorities need for these projects," Noorbaksh said.

High technology from U.S. companies appears to be widely available in Iran. Various Iranian firms advertise servers, networking products and components from a variety of U.S. vendors on their Web sites.

The ARI disclosure comes two years after the Iranian High Performance Computing Research Center said that it had assembled a Linux-based supercomputer using 216 Opteron processing cores.

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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