back to article I think I'm a clone now: Chinese AMD Epyc-like server chips appear in China. What gives?

 Hey El Reg, over the past few days I've seen news that Chinese chip biz Hygon is producing server-grade processors virtually identical to AMD Epyc processors. I'm kinda getting deja vu – you, too? You're not the only one. We reported back in April 2016 that... AMD and THATIC – Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment …

  1. Sebastian Brosig
    Black Helicopters

    Backdoors

    We need a free open standard for chip design back doors: that way the NSA and the Chinese secret service can both leverage the common architecture and benefit from development speed ups do deliver complete citizen transparency at a greatly reduced cost.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. defiler

      Re: Backdoors

      Yeah. I replied to that, but got completely the wrong end of the stick. Re-reading it, I see you're proposing the Mobile Oppression Palace, where a handful of dignitaries can subjugate an entire planet for pennies a day.

  2. Peter2 Silver badge

    Hopefully AMD will make enough money from this to survive whatever Intel's next anti competitive action to keep AMD out of the market is.

    Have you noticed how difficult it is to buy a ready built AMD Ryzen from the people caught doing anti competitive deals with Intel last time? You wouldn't know that Ryzen has a better price/performance point judging by the fact that Dell only do Ryzen's in their alienware range at a seriously premium price. And um, the fact that despite HP thereotically selling PC's with Ryzens in you can't actually order them from the HP.com website.

    Funny that.

    1. P0l0nium

      Nothing stops any Dell competitor slapping an X470 board in a box and marketing it as a superior product.

      Nothing forces you to buy from Del/HPl if you can secure better value elsewhere.

      I'm sure HP and Dell would sell you a Ryzen box if they thought it was profitable.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        I'm sure HP and Dell would sell you a Ryzen box if they thought it was profitable.

        I take it that you missed Intel sucessfully locking AMD out of the market when the Athlon64 and Opetron completely blew away the P4 and Xeon's of the time?

        El Reg covered this quite nicely back then:-

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/26/after_the_dell_settlement/

        This also summerises quite nicely.

        https://mlexmarketinsight.com/insights-center/editors-picks/antitrust/europe/intel-denounces-huge-expansion-of-eus-legal-reach-in-antitrust-fine-appeal

        Intel’s illegal conduct was two-fold: firstly, giving rebates to computer manufacturers — Dell, HP, NEC and Lenovo — if they bought all, or almost all, of their processors from Intel. This was also combined with direct payments to a German retailer Media Saturn Holding for stocking only Intel products.

        Secondly, Intel paid HP, Acer and Lenovo to limit or delay rival AMD-equipped products and squeeze them out of sales channels, the commission found.

        Personally, I doubt that the same retailers not selling anything from AMD this time around is down to the merits of the product.

      2. Francis Boyle
      3. John Savard Silver badge

        Nothing stops me from building a system for myself around an X470 motherboard.

        But many potential computer purchasers are less sophisticated, and will buy whatever happens to be conveniently available for them in a box on dealer shelves. So, if AMD's new Ryzen chips aren't there, this will reduce the benefits to AMD of that chip's improved performance.

    2. Christian Berger

      "Hopefully AMD will make enough money from this to survive whatever Intel's next anti competitive action to keep AMD out of the market is."

      Actually Intel isn't likely to do anything severely "anti competitive". A duopoly is a great place for both Intel and AMD. Should AMD fail, Intel would be in the highly problematic situation of having a monopoly. That means regulation and perhaps even breakup of Intel. Giving a couple of percents of revenue to AMD is a low price to pay to keep that out.

  3. cmannett85

    "It wants its web giants, and computer, phone, and server makers, to use homegrown and homebuilt chips within China."

    "CHMT need only be given enough intellectual property from AMD to physically produce the chips - typically a mind-bogglingly non-trivial "netlist" of gates that's difficult to reverse engineer..."

    So the Chinese government still have no idea what's going into their data centres?

    1. Christian Berger

      The netlist is not where you would hide your backdoor. That would be both hard and dangerous to do. The far better place is to put it into any kind of "security" subsystem, as that makes it far easier to get it working and won't ruin your chip if it doesn't work. Simply put, if you already have a seperate CPU on the die, it's far simpler to make that one send out memory regions than to somehow modify the main CPU in a way that it only misbehaves in certain situations while still passing all the tests.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two people standing by a water cooler?

    Regarding the shutterstock illustration titled 'Two people standing by a water cooler'. Shouldn't that be: Two people, not a member of the Caucasian patriarchy, standing by a water cooler :]

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good luck AMD

    So many companies have regretted starting partnerships in China. The Chinese partner always ends up reverse engineering their products and then cutting them out of the project, undercutting them on the international market.

  6. David 55

    Contradictory

    So if China will only get a mindbogglingly non-trivial list of gates and not the source code, how will they check for backdoors?

    1. thames

      Re: Contradictory

      They can replace the built-in encryption accelerators and random number generators with their own. The way the US has been putting back doors into systems is to get people who work for them (either openly or clandestinely) on industry standards boards and get subtle weaknesses introduced into the standards. They also bribed American companies to implement these backdoored standards and then certified them as "secure" in order to get them adopted in the market.

      These weaknesses make encryption easier to crack. You couldn't prove the standards had a back door unless you knew what the back door was, and independent cryptographers who thought things looked more then a bit fishy were dismissed as tin foil hat wearers. Then it all came out in a set of leaks a few years ago.

      How that relates to CPUs is, how do you know that the encryption acceleration or random number generator built into an Intel CPU doesn't have a similar US government backdoor built into it? You don't, which is why Linux kernel devs don't trust the built-in random number generator for use in encryption. They only use it as one of a number of different sources of randomness specifically because of the threat of US back doors.

      So, the Chinese can replace the encryption accelerators and random number generators in AMD CPUs with their own. They may possibly Chinese back doors instead of American back doors, but at least they know the US government won't be reading all their encrypted messages. That isn't an assurance that the rest of the world doesn't have.

      Oh, and if the Americans have back doors in Intel CPUs, then the Russians and a number of other countries probably have managed to get themselves a copy of the same keys as well, one way or another.

  7. Zmodem

    you forgot the whole monopoly thing... AMD owning 51% of a company won't make them any real money, but a licence for designs will

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hopefully AMD's sales team isn't full of Dumbshits

    My company sold some hardware tech to China (after a failed joint venture, Chinese wouldn't pay their bills). Our idea was, of course, we'll break into the Chinese market, and then sell our more advanced hardware and software internationally (basically sticking the Chinese with old tech no one would want). Somehow, we ended up giving them the source code for a software simulator for the hardware, something we wanted to sell separately (even to our Chinese customers). It's still unclear if we've been paid at all for anything, and we're giving them shit they don't have any right to.

    Hopefully AMD is a lot smarter than my company (and no, it's not some mom-and-pop company, you'd recognize the name).

    I guess my point is, anyone in the US hiring?

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