When the United States began to ban the export of high-performance hardware to China, the country became alarmed. They managed to manufacture CPUs and GPUs locally, but the technology and power of these paled in comparison to American hardware. Brands such as Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA are clearly superior to anything offered by China. Now that even NVIDIA cannot sell its GPUs there, China is rushing to take advantage of the available RTX 3090s and convert them into AI accelerators, something we saw recently with other more powerful models.
The US and China have had a strained relationship for years, with the Americans constantly accusing the Chinese of espionage and data theft. On the other hand, when AI started to gain popularity with ChatGPT last year, China became the focal point for the United States. This is because the Asian giant had the potential to advance in artificial intelligence and become a dangerous rival. To prevent this, the US decided to ban the export of high-performance hardware and AI chips to China.
China uses RTX 3090s to repurpose them as AI accelerators
Initially, China was prohibited from purchasing GPUs exceeding a certain compute power threshold in TFLOPs. However, a few weeks ago, we saw NVIDIA become banned from selling graphics cards altogether, ending all business there. Before that happened, the company sent a large number of high-performance GPUs. This became the last chance for Chinese companies to acquire these graphics cards. We already saw how they treated the RTX 4090s they received, dismantling them and converting them into AI GPUs.
After seeing what they did with the RTX 4090s by changing the heatsink and selling them as AI graphics cards, we now see the same with the RTX 3090s. While the RTX 3090s may be considerably slower than the RTX 4090s, they still have the same 24 GB of VRAM for training LLM models, making them very useful for AI.
Blower design RTX 3090s are smaller and efficiently expel hot air
This time, China has decided to use the RTX 3090s with blower-type heatsinks, meaning a single fan is responsible for absorbing and expelling air. This cooling design does not cool as well as 2 or 3-fan gaming graphics cards. However, it has advantages such as expelling air and not trapping it inside the PC or server case. If multiple blower-type graphics cards are added, it will ensure that at least all hot air will be expelled from the case. This is because the GPU itself is closed, except for the holes in the rear bracket. On the other hand, RTX 3090s with this type of heatsink are smaller, occupying two PCIe slots.
Since these are older GPUs, it appears that China has many available units of the single-fan version. In Europe, they are less popular models, but we can say that, unlike the RTX 4090, several brands opted for this cooling system for the 3090. Moreover, if no more models are available, they can do the same as with the RTX 4090 and change the heatsink.
The article Desperate China: Converting RTX 3090s into AI GPUs Amid US Bans first appears on El Chapuzas Informático.