Exclusive: Nvidia offers new advanced chip for China that meets US export controls

OAKLAND, California, Nov 7 (Reuters) – US chipmaker Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) is offering a new advanced chip in China that meets recent export control rules aimed at keeping cutting-edge technology out of China’s hands, the company confirmed on Monday.

Nvidia responded to Reuters reports that Chinese computer vendors were promoting products with the new chip.

Dubbed the A800, the chip represents the first reported attempt by a US semiconductor company to develop advanced processors for China that comply with the new US trade rules. Nvidia has said the export restrictions could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

US regulations enacted in early October effectively banned the export of advanced microchips and advanced chip-making equipment by Chinese chipmakers, part of an effort to weaken China’s semiconductor industry and, by extension, its military.

In late August, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD.O both announced that their advanced chips, including Nvidia’s A100 data center chip, had been placed on the US Department of Commerce’s export control list. The Nvidia A800 can be used in place of the A100 and both are GPUs or graphics processors.

Such advanced chips can cost thousands of dollars each.

“The Nvidia A800 GPU, which went into production in the third quarter, 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 controls and cannot be programmed to exceed it,” Nvidia said in a statement to Reuters.

Nvidia declined to comment on whether it had consulted the Department of Commerce on the new chip. A spokesman for the Department of Commerce declined to comment.

At least two Chinese websites of major server manufacturers offer the A800 chip in their products. One of these products previously used the A100 chip in promotional material.

A retailer’s website in China detailed the A800’s specs. A comparison of chip capabilities with the A100 shows that the chip-to-chip data transfer rate is 400 gigabytes per second for the new chip versus 600 gigabytes per second for the A100. The new rules limit rates of 600 gigabytes per second and above.

“The A800 appears to be a repackaged A100 GPU designed to circumvent the Department of Commerce’s recent trade restrictions,” said Wayne Lam, an analyst at CCS Insight, who based his comments on the specifications shared by Reuters, noting that eight is a lucky number china.

“China is a significant market for Nvidia and it makes commercial sense to reconfigure its product to circumvent trade restrictions,” said Lam.

Lam said the A800’s chip-to-chip communication capabilities represented a clear performance penalty for a data center where thousands of chips are used together.

Major Chinese server manufacturers Inspur and H3C, which offer servers with the new chips, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither does chip distributor OmniSky, who put the A800 specifications online.

Nvidia said about $400 million worth of chip sales to China in the fiscal third quarter that ended in October could be impacted by the restrictions on high-end chips. A replacement chip could help soften the financial hit. The company will report quarterly results on November 16th.

Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee in Oakland, California. Additional reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Peter Henderson, Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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