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12/10/2007
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Iranian Scientists Develop Country's Most Powerful Supercomputer

The system reportedly uses 216 AMD microprocessors. AMD said it has never authorized any product shipments to Iran, a country to which U.S. computer exports are prohibited.

Iranian scientists claim to have used 216 microprocessors made by Advanced Micro Devices to build the country's most powerful supercomputer, despite a ban on the export of U.S. computer equipment to the Middle Eastern nation.

Scientists at the Iranian High Performance Computing Research Center at the country's Amirkabir University of Technology said they used a Linux-cluster architecture in building the system of Opteron processors. The supercomputer has a theoretical peak performance of 860 giga-flops, the posting said. A giga-flop is a billion calculations per second.

The disclosure, made in an undated posting on Amirkabir's Web site, brought an immediate response Monday from AMD, which said it has never authorized shipments of products either directly or indirectly to Iran or any other embargoed country.

"AMD fully complies with all United States export control laws, and all authorized distributors of AMD products have contractually committed to AMD that they will do the same with respect to their sales and shipments of AMD products," the company said. "Any shipment of AMD products to Iran by any authorized distributor of AMD would be a breach of the specific provisions of their contracts with AMD."

Enforcement of export bans is handled through the Office of Foreign Asset Control, which is part of the U.S. Treasury Department. Officials were unavailable for comment.

The Iranian system will be used for weather forecasting and meteorological research. Iranian scientists developed software for systems management and monitoring, but use a medium scale computer model called MM5 for creating atmospheric simulations and weather forecasts. MM5 is freely available and supported by a division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the U.S. Other software includes the Advanced Regional Prediction System that was initially developed at the University of Oklahoma, under a program of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.

Besides weather forecasting, supercomputers are used in the oil and gas industry, drug making, computer assisted design and the aerodynamics industry, as well as in scientific research. The Iranian research center built the country's first supercomputer in 2001. Another supercomputer was built in 2003 for processing satellite images for the Iranian Space Agency.

The Iranian supercomputer falls far behind the world's fastest computers. In November, the BlueGene/L System, jointly developed by IBM and the U.S. Department of Energy was ranked No. 1 in the world with a benchmark performance of 478.2 teraflops. A teraflop equals a trillion calculations per second.

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