Blacklisted Russian Supercomputing Company Speaks to Suspicions

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 7, 2013

Almost two months ago, we reported on a document from the United States Department of Commerce that pinned rather hefty suspicions on the Russian supercomputer company, T-Platforms. 

According to the Department of Commerce, T-Platforms has been associated with “activities that could result in an increased risk of the diversion of exported, reexported, or transferred (in-country) items to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.”

The agency further explained in a detailed document

“We have reason to believe that T-Platforms is associated with military procurement activities, including the development of computer systems for military end-users and the production of computers for nuclear research. T-Platforms has locations in Germany and Taiwan that are engaged in the same types of activities of concern. Based on T-Platforms’ activities, including those of its locations in Germany and Taiwan, the ERC determined that it is engaged in activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests and poses a high risk of involvement in violations of the EAR.”

We have since spent a great deal of time trying to better understand the cause and story behind the blacklisting. While the U.S. Department of Commerce has been mum about specifics, we were able to eek some details out of the company over the course of a couple of months, culminating in a more defined Q and A from their CEO, Vsevelod Opanasenko

T-Platforms argues that they have been maligned because of their competitive position, despite the very clear assertions from the U.S. government that they have landed on the foul side of trade by providing systems and technologies to hostile nations. As you will see, particularly at the end of the interview, their sense of American technology competitiveness is creating an “east versus west” paradigm–one that is being fed by moves like banning foreign competitors. Although they told us they were not permitted to speak about the allegations, Opanasenko lays out his case rather clearly…more to come.

HPCwire: As you know, we reported on the document that stated that T-Platforms had been “blacklisted” by the U.S. Department of Commerce due to conditions that involved national security. What really happened here–what do you admit might have been seen as potentially a threat to U.S. national security and what do you believe is false?

Opanasenko: We have received a document from the Department of Commerce outlining the reasons to include T-Platforms on the Entry List. We believe it must have been a misunderstanding or an error, at best, because the assumptions behind these reasons are either irrelevant to us or based on some kind of misinterpretations.  

We are working with US lawyers to prepare an appeal. As to whether we admit that we might have been seen as a threat to U.S. national security, we’d first need to understand whether the US administration views Russia as a friend and partner, or, primarily, as an enemy. 

The connection is obvious, to my mind.  We have always evangelized HPC and we now finally see local awareness and user demand growing. We apply huge efforts to develop HPC in Russia as well as in Europe. And we obviously do a lot to encourage industrial use of HPC in our home market. As a result, our industrial customers become more competitive as HPC cheapens and shortens their R&D cycle. 

So, if the US administration considers Russia an enemy, it would hardly be interested in increased competitiveness of Russia’s manufacturing. If, on the contrary, Russia is viewed as a partner, we present no threat to US national security or foreign policy interests whatsoever.   

I’d also add that, as we’ve been told by many, it’s quite unusual that a company like ours would turn up in this particular list. Taking this into account, and also knowing competitive practices applied by certain US corporations in Russia and Europe, and methods they use to fight us, I couldn’t dismiss the possibility of their involvement. I’m not going to voice particular brands to avoid speculation.   

HPCwire: What will the basis of your appeal be? Is it even possible for you to appeal this–and isn’t the damage done to your business by the point that this is finally resolved going to be so great as to significantly harm your business permanently?

Opanasenko: Our appeal is based on the evidence proving that we have not violated anything. As an initial stage of the appeal, the Bureau of Industry and Security has asked us to answer a number of questions. Some of them are simply based on incorrect assumptions and need to be clarified, and the rest of them require additional information which we are going to provide in full.  Whether the decision can actually be reconsidered, is a question to the US authorities.  

The damage done to our business is already quite substantial: for the latest 2.5 months our product development and operations are frozen, the costs are being cut down to the minimum, and we have no idea on how long it will last. It is obvious that if the situation persists for a long time, the damage will be irreparable and, indeed, it would spoil our business forever. I would rather not fall into such pessimistic forecasts though.

Our image has also suffered a tangible damage.  We hope that, above all, this interview helps our partners to better understand the situation and avoid a one-sided interpretation. In particular, I want to stress that all our purchase activities have always been transparent, and our suppliers have been fully informed on end-users and end-use of our projects.  I hope that, as I said, this is a misunderstanding, and the information provided with our appeal would help to quickly resolve the situation.

HPCwire: Given your dealings with U.S. as a company, are you inclined to believe that the U.S. is viewing Russia as an enemy? If so, where does supercomputing fit into the “threat” concept? 

Opanasenko: The answer to this question actually depends on how our work with BIS will proceed. If it appears that considering our appeal at BIS takes an unnecessary long time, we would be indeed inclined to believe that certain politics is involved.  If the procedure goes smoothly after BIS receives straight answers supported by solid facts from us, the decision could be quickly revised. 

In fact, I believe it would be easier to suspect economic rather than political motives to underline the situation. HPC is widely recognized as a powerful competitive tool. ‘To out-compete is to out-compute’ has become a commonplace. Strategically, greater achievements in supercomputing mean better competitiveness in the global market for a country: in this sense, a potential rival is indeed a ‘threat’ to U.S. as a current HPC market leader.   

It is clear that T-Platforms is not the only HPC manufacturer able to satisfy the local demand for supercomputing power, and the decision taken by BIS will primarily affect the distribution of vendor market shares, giving the U.S. companies the opportunity to regain the local market won by T-Platforms in recent years.  It is also clear that blocking a successful local manufacturer affects the HPC technology development in the country, in the long term. Although, being a private business, we would definitely prefer to view U.S. as a technological partner, like we have always done, well outside any ‘threat concepts’.

HPCwire: Do you feel there has been a conspiracy to keep T-Platforms from growing into a wider market? If so, please give us a sense of that theory—

Opanasenko: I would rather confine myself to facts. We have observed growing demand for alternative non-US hardware vendors in Europe for several years in a row, and our recent progress supports this trend. Last year we have reported our collaboration project for PRACE with the Finnish CSC, we are about to announce our first delivery to Juelich Supercomputer Center, we were successful as a developer of choice for the new QPACE project. We, as well as some of our customers, were explicitly informed more than once that our progress is not viewed upon favorably by everyone on a political level, and attempts of pressure have indeed been made. It is a fact, not a theory, that our ability to challenge the power balance on the EU HPC market disturbed certain politicians. 

We were always quite independent in terms of technology choice, trying to satisfy diversified customer needs rather than promote a ‘favorite’ vendor. This contradicts customer policy of certain U.S. vendors. As a result, we sometimes were openly refused product and pricing support by certain manufacturers.

Rather than a conspiracy against T-Platforms, these facts, in my opinion, show one tendency which potentially threatens healthy development of the entire HPC industry and should be seriously reconsidered.   I mean an intention to artificially restrict competition and keep current global market leaders in place, at whatever price. 

HPCwire: It’s hard to argue with the fact that America’s dominance in the tech hardware market is significant–and controls the bulk of international business. If T-Platforms is cut out of the American business supply chain and others, including China and Japan build their capabilities on the chip, interconnect and system fronts, as you told us before, you think there will be a mass exodous away from American vendors, correct? In other words, as you noted, this is because of these types of perceived business practices–this would, in effect, create a East v. West technology ecosystem, no?

I would agree here.  Look at what’s happening in the global market. EU plans to invest billions of Euros in the development of semiconductors. President Putin creates ‘industrial clusters’ to improve research and manufacturing. President Obama advocates the return of manufacturing to the U.S. and ensuring American technological leadership. This shows that globalization has obvious flaws, and local manufacturing is likely to rise again, resulting in greater customization of products and independency from imported goods. While corporations benefit from globalization, many politicians begin to understand that it contradicts national interests and does not always help to address competitiveness, employment and environmental issues.  Today, large corporations are weary of private initiatives undertaken by small and medium-sized companies. The tendency is to either buy potential rivals or to simply drive them out of the market.  

No one wants to put the ‘East’ against the ‘West’. However, this opposition automatically results from certain government decisions. Sanctions against Huawei, now expelled from the US market, like our blockade, prompt national economies to develop their own competence in key technological areas, instead of using technologies developed globally. As a result, Europe, China, Japan, South Korea are now independently developing semiconductor industry. If American corporations were more open-minded in terms of technological cooperation, this could have been avoided.

In other words, by restricting competition and joint development, Americans are forcing the ‘East’ to go its own way, that is, to develop its own independent technology. As a result, some customers might indeed leave U.S. companies and opt for the ‘East’.  In the long term it undermines U.S. corporations rather than reduces the competition threat, because they virtually ‘bite the hand that feeds’.  

T-Platforms has always supported global collaboration, and all of our projects were based on partnering with major U.S. vendors. However when we are cut out of the global technological chain we have no choice but to go for local government support and develop home-grown technology. This sets our countries apart in the area where there should have been mutually profitable collaboration. 

***

While T-Platforms has pulled out of the International Supercomputing Conference this year, we are expecting to engage in a short meeting with the company for further details. If you have questions that you’d like considered, please ping me at editor@hpcwire.com 

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

UK to Launch Six Major HPC Centers

March 27, 2017

Six high performance computing centers will be formally launched in the U.K. later this week intended to provide wider access to HPC resources to U.K. Read more…

By John Russell

AI in the News: Rao in at Intel, Ng out at Baidu, Nvidia on at Tencent Cloud

March 26, 2017

Just as AI has become the leitmotif of the advanced scale computing market, infusing much of the conversation about HPC in commercial and industrial spheres, it also is impacting high-level management changes in the industry. Read more…

By Doug Black

Scalable Informatics Ceases Operations

March 23, 2017

On the same day we reported on the uncertain future for HPC compiler company PathScale, we are sad to learn that another HPC vendor, Scalable Informatics, is closing its doors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Strategies in Biomedical Data Science’ Advances IT-Research Synergies

March 23, 2017

“Strategies in Biomedical Data Science: Driving Force for Innovation” by Jay A. Etchings is both an introductory text and a field guide for anyone working with biomedical data. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Quants Achieving Maximum Compute Power without the Learning Curve

The financial services industry is a fast-paced and data-intensive environment, and financial firms are realizing that they must modernize their IT infrastructures and invest in high performance computing (HPC) tools in order to survive. Read more…

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Launches New Machine Learning Journal

March 22, 2017

On Monday, Google announced plans to launch a new peer review journal and “ecosystem” Read more…

By John Russell

Swiss Researchers Peer Inside Chips with Improved X-Ray Imaging

March 22, 2017

Peering inside semiconductor chips using x-ray imaging isn’t new, but the technique hasn’t been especially good or easy to accomplish. Read more…

By John Russell

LANL Simulation Shows Massive Black Holes Break ‘Speed Limit’

March 21, 2017

A new computer simulation based on codes developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is shedding light on how supermassive black holes could have formed in the early universe contrary to most prior models which impose a limit on how fast these massive ‘objects’ can form. Read more…

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Japanese Supercomputing Project Targets Exascale

March 14, 2017

Another Japanese supercomputing project was revealed this week, this one from emerging supercomputer maker, ExaScaler Inc., and Keio University. The partners are working on an original supercomputer design with exascale aspirations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Debuts HGX-1 for Cloud; Announces Fujitsu AI Deal

March 9, 2017

On Monday Nvidia announced a major deal with Fujitsu to help build an AI supercomputer for RIKEN using 24 DGX-1 servers. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC4Mfg Advances State-of-the-Art for American Manufacturing

March 9, 2017

Last Friday (March 3, 2017), the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program held an industry engagement day workshop in San Diego, bringing together members of the US manufacturing community, national laboratories and universities to discuss the role of high-performance computing as an innovation engine for American manufacturing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Leading Solution Providers

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This