Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has suspended chip shipments for new orders from China’s Phytium, which was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce last week by the US government. Inclusion of companies on this list means that US companies are prohibited from working with them and providing products or services without obtaining the appropriate licenses.
Foreign companies like TSMC could theoretically continue to work with blacklisted companies, but the US could pressure them through their US suppliers. For example, when the United States blacklisted Huawei, TSMC was forced to abandon its partnership because many of the key technologies underlying its manufacturing processes were developed by American firms.
It is unclear whether TSMC has been under similar pressure now and whether it has cut off supplies to the remaining six blacklisted Chinese supercomputer firms. According to the South China Morning Post, TSMC will fulfill orders placed by Phytium before being blacklisted, but will no longer supply it with chips.
It is believed that Phytium is behind the deployment of high-performance computing systems for the Chinese military-industrial complex, using its developments to create hypersonic missiles. The company cooperates with the People’s Liberation Army Defense Science and Technology University of China (NUDT), which previously created the Tianhe-1 and Tianhe-2 supercomputers, which at one time occupied the first lines of the TOP500 rating.
Tianhe-3, one of three Chinese exascale supercomputer projects, was due to be completed last year, but it was announced in the fall that due to the coronavirus pandemic, deadlines are being shifted. In the summer of 2020, the researchers already had a prototype of a new machine at their disposal, with a theoretical performance of 3.146 Pflops. It included 512 boards with three Phytium MT2000 + processors and 128 boards with four Phytium FT2000 + processors.
The exact parameters of these 7nm Arm chips are not given, but a recent scientific publication mentions that for every 64-core FT2000 + in the Tianhe-3 prototype, there was 64GB of RAM. And each MT2000 + can be divided into four NUMA nodes with 32 cores and 16 GB of RAM, that is, judging by the description, this is a 128-core chip, which was previously unknown. Now the fate of these CPUs and the Tianhe-3 supercomputer is questionable.