Nvidia Creates New Supercomputer Chip For Chinese Market

Nvidia
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia has created a new data center GPU for the Chinese market, designed to meet new US export control rules. According to a report from Reuters (opens in new tab), the chip is called the A800, and can be used in place of the A100 for the same tasks.

Nvidia Voyager campus, Santa Clara, California

(Image credit: Nvidia)

The A100, used in supercomputers by the likes of Oracle (opens in new tab), Tesla (opens in new tab) and Meta (opens in new tab), is a Tensor core GPU based on the Ampere architecture (as in the RTX 30-series). They’re heavily used for AI, and deep learning tasks such as image and speech recognition, as well as high-performance computing. They feature up to 80GB of memory per chip, the world’s fastest memory bandwidth at 2TB/s, and the ability to link together through PCIe Gen 4 enabling thousands of GPUs to work in unison.

US trade rules set earlier this year restrict the export of advanced chips to China. To prevent such high-tech products from falling into military hands and being used for intelligence gathering from digital communications or satellite images. The rules specifically limit the chip transfer rate to below 600GB/s. The new A800 GPU has a transfer rate of 400GB/s.

Nvidia is not the only company to be affected by the rules, with AMD explaining to Reuters in September (opens in new tab) that it could no longer sell its MI250 (opens in new tab) chips - also used in supercomputers - to the populous Asian country, but believed its MI100 (opens in new tab) HPC GPUs were unaffected. In the same report, it was claimed Nvidia stood to lose $400 million in just one quarter if not supplied with an exemption, something the new chip seems built to circumvent.

"The Nvidia A800 GPU, which went into production in Q3, is another alternative product to the Nvidia A100 GPU for customers in China. The A800 meets the US government’s clear test for reduced export control and cannot be programmed to exceed it," a Nvidia spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters. 

China has accused the US of a ‘tech blockade’ that undermines the stability of global supply chains. "The US continues to abuse export control measures to restrict exports of semiconductor-related items to China, which China firmly opposes," Chinese commerce ministry spokesperson Shu Jieting said at a news conference in September.

Ian Evenden
Freelance News Writer

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.