Iran launches most powerful supercomputer, built with black market technology
Developed at Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology, the system is 100 times more powerful than previous Iranian supercomputers, the country said.
Named after the benevolent Phoenix-like bird Simurgh, the supercomputer will be used for artificial intelligence workloads, traffic and weather data, and image processing, state media said.
Located at the university’s Iranian High Performance Computing Research Center (IHPCRC), Simurgh will also be used for cloud hosting for some local private companies.
“Artificial intelligence is the driving force behind the future of the economy in Iran and around the world,” Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.
“Iranian youth have successfully built Iranian ‘Simorgh’ supercomputer with petaflop processing capacity in order to provide the processing capacity they need.”
Specific hardware specifications were not disclosed, but blurry shots appear to show the Schneider APC equipment.
Such equipment and the American supercomputer chips should have been acquired on the black market.
For decades, the United States imposed federal counterterrorism trade sanctions against Iran and tried to slow down its research on nuclear weapons.
This has made it more difficult for Iran to acquire supercomputing hardware – the country lagging significantly behind its peers on equivalent HPC facilities.
But it hasn’t been completely frozen, managing to acquire material illegally through third-party vendors, or by purchasing equipment from legitimate sources through shell companies and redirecting shipments.
Amirkabir University developed a 32-node PC cluster based on Intel Pentium III processors in 2001, and a Pentium IV system a year later.
In 2007, the country got its hands on 216 AMD Opteron cores, developing its most powerful supercomputer of the time.
Beyond state-owned supercomputers, the country’s largest computing cluster is likely to be found in Bitcoin mining facilities. These also use black market equipment, as well as Chinese equipment that is not as strictly covered by the sanctions.
Earlier this year, the country tried to blame continued power outages on the 450 MW of mining capacity reported in Iran, but experts said cryptocurrencies were an easy scapegoat for “decades of mismanagement” .