Iran Reveals Simorgh Supercomputer, Says Another Is Imminent

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Iran announced this week that its new supercomputer, Simorgh, has debuted with a peak performance of 0.56 petaflops and plans to reach 1 petaflop in two months. 

Al Jazeera reported that Simorgh was "said to be wholly designed and built by a team of Iranian engineers, who developed the country’s first supercomputer a decade ago, but some of its hardware has been imported." (The original source is the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, but we can't find the report on its English website.)

It's not clear from where the Amirkabir University of Technology, which developed Simorgh, would have been able to import the parts required to build the system. The U.S. government has imposed harsh restrictions on the sale of American tech—or products created using those technologies, like the processors and GPUs most commonly used in supercomputers—to companies operating in Iran.

Remember that part of the U.S. government's complaints regarding Huawei were that the company allegedly skirted American sanctions to sell equipment to Iran. That wasn't the sole motivation behind Huawei's blacklisting, of course, but it served as a useful reminder that the U.S. has strict policies regarding exports to Iran. It also serves as an example of how countries such as Iran can get around US sanctions. 

Al Jazeera reported that Simorgh "is said to comprise 42 racks in an area of approximately 250sq meters (2,690 sq feet) based on the TIA-942 standard and is projected to be upgraded to 84 racks laid out in an area of 400sq meters (4,305 square feet)." Iran's government provided half its $4.5 million development budget.

Simorgh will purportedly be "used in analysing artificial intelligence, crunching traffic and weather data, and image processing." It's also set to be followed by another supercomputer, Maryam, expected to "have 100 times the capacity of Simorgh." Work on Maryam has already started, but it doesn't have a firm deployment date.

It's worth putting that 100x better performance in perspective. Right now the most powerful supercomputer in the world is an Arm-based system in Japan called Fugaku. It's said to offer performance up to 415.5 petaflops. The next-highest, IBM Summit, offers 148.6 petaflops. Maryam's 100 petaflops target pales in comparison.

That figure is also based on many assumptions: that Simorgh's performance will reach 1 petaflops; that AUT can offer a 100x performance increase in a second-gen supercomputer; and that all of the parts on which Maryam will rely can be imported without running afoul of U.S. restrictions on American-developed technologies.

The last one might be the hardest to believe given U.S.-Iran relations. The U.S. also made it clear it takes the development of supercomputers in countries with which it has some tension (to put it mildly) seriously by blacklisting seven Chinese companies for helping build supercomputers for the Chinese People Liberation Army.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • Chung Leong
    The chance is rather high that this thing sports Hygon Dhyana CPUs. Thanks a lot, AMD.
  • warezme
    Is this like when they built a fake carrier or was that Iraq?
  • escksu
    Chung Leong said:
    The chance is rather high that this thing sports Hygon Dhyana CPUs. Thanks a lot, AMD.

    Unlikely. Its more of GPU based instead of CPU.
  • gg83
    Yeah, who supplies the parts? Russia or China I imagine.
  • Historical Fidelity
    I get the sneaking suspicion that the story from the Iranian press is a government cover up to the supercomputers’ true simulate and fine tune the explosive efficiency of Iranian nuclear bomb designs. I could be wrong of course and I have no way to corroborate that except for the fact that the US, after the nuclear test ban treaty, used supercomputers to validate new nuclear weapon designs in lieu of detonating them for real. Not to mention that right now the most powerful supercomputer in the United States is at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is exclusively used to simulate the readiness and aging of nuclear bomb internals as the US nuclear stockpile grows older due to production of new weapons ending in the 90’s. Like I said could be wrong but an interesting thought none the less.
  • King_V
    Is the equipment they can't get from real sanctions that the US had, or sanctions that were the result of Trump's pissy "I have to prove that I'm tougher than Obama" withdrawal from JCPOA?
  • maik80
    And what's the problem, most of these computers are used in medical and scientific studies in general
  • lvt
    They are a bit late for crypto mining :D