Future Tech

Ooredoo to splash Nvidia GPUs across the Middle East

Tan KW
Publish date: Tue, 25 Jun 2024, 04:16 PM
Tan KW
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Future Tech

Amid US restrictions curbing the export of certain high-end AI accelerators to much of the Middle East, Silicon Valley's Nvidia has reached an agreement to furnish Qatari telecom Ooredoo's datacenters with "thousands" of GPUs.

The AI accelerators in question - which may or may not be export limited - will not only be deployed in Ooredoo's datacenters. They'll be made available to startups across Qatar, Algeria, Tunisia, Oman, Kuwait, and the Maldives, the Mid-Eastern biz announced in a statement on Sunday.

In an interview, group CEO Aziz Aluthman Fakhroo predicted the deal would give Ooredoo an 18- to 24-month lead over its competitors in the region. However, the agreement, signed during the TMForum in Copenhagen last week, remains rather vague as to what and how many GPUs Ooredoo ultimately intends to deploy.

With Nvidia's current-gen H100 and H200s in high demand and its next-gen Blackwell accelerators not due out until later this year at the earliest, Ooredoo has a couple of options, depending on its timing.

Another factor may come down to power. Ooredoo has previously committed to investing $1 billion to bolster its regional datacenter capacity to more than 120 megawatts. Such capacity could easily support tens of thousands of Nvidia's flagship accelerators, but this will depend on how quickly the business can expand its DC footprint.

As mentioned, the deal makes no mention of Nvidia securing the necessary licenses to sell its highest-end cards in the region, nor whether it even needs to - only top-end kit is restricted, and the accelerator champ could be flogging off lower-end, non-restricted gear to the Qataris.

Last summer, the Biden administration extended its export controls on the sale of AI hardware to much of the Middle East, over fears China was using the region as a proxy to obtain high-end accelerators. Among the players hit by the export restrictions was Nvidia, which issued an SEC disclosure shortly after the decision was made.

Since then, several businesses across the Middle East - including the United Arab Emirates - have taken steps to strengthen US ties in an effort to assuage lawmakers' concerns about powerful silicon shipping off to the region and then ending up in the hands of the Chinese, Russians, and other nations that are off America's Christmas card list.

Thus, there's no guarantee that Ooredoo or others in the region will be getting their hands on Nvidia's full-fat GPUs. In response to US export controls, Nvidia has developed a number of sanction-busting chips designed to limbo under performance limits.

As such, it's entirely possible that rather than obtaining a license to export its flagship accelerators, Nvidia instead will ship systems based around its H20 SXM, L20 or L2 lines - which aren't subject to US sanctions.

Nvidia declined to comment. The Register also reached out to Ooredoo, and did not immediately hear back. ®

 

https://www.theregister.com//2024/06/25/ooredoo_nvidia_gpus/

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