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Russia Wants To Replace US Computer Chips With Local Processors 340

Posted by timothy
from the domestic-production dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from Tass: Russia's Industry and Trade Ministry plans to replace U.S. microchips (Intel and AMD), used in government's computers, with domestically-produced micro Baikal processors in a project worth dozens of millions of dollars, business daily Kommersant reported Thursday. The article is fairly thin, but does add a bit more detail: "The Baikal micro processor will be designed by a unit of T-Platforms, a producer of supercomputers, next year, with support from state defense conglomerate Rostec and co-financing by state-run technological giant Rosnano. The first products will be Baikal M and M/S chips, designed on the basis of 64-bit nucleus Cortex A-57 made by UK company ARM, with frequency of 2 gigahertz for personal computers and micro servers."
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Russia Wants To Replace US Computer Chips With Local Processors

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  • It will be interesting to see how good these chips are. Potentially they could provide a cheap alternative for datacentres
  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:42AM (#47287685) Homepage

    Been saying this for years now since the earliest reports of NSA spying and the cooperation of technology companies came out. Most people kept saying it was nonsense that global trust in US technology can never be lost if only because ours is "the best" and is too expensive to replace. Seems to me that's not a deciding factor these days. The bad behaving US government is causing real harm to business now. As soon as business begins to realize how toxic that relationship is, they will stop doing it. But then again, we still have lots of companies trying to send (outsource) tech to China... China who has a long history of taking the tech and spinning it off on their own. Hoy myopic can they be?

    • " But then again, we still have lots of companies trying to send (outsource) tech to China... China who has a long history of taking the tech and spinning it off on their own. Hoy myopic can they be?"

      I don't mind China (or Russia) taking the tech. I don't mind when they don't give back. A minor example: the many Android variants running on cheap tablets that can't be upgraded because the source code for their non-standard hardware isn't available. (Technically you can upgrade such tablets but you'd lose a l

  • by ruir (2709173) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @06:57AM (#47287707) Homepage
    Why not pick up the Loongson project from the chinese? Although I agree the ARM codeset seems very viable in the near future, MIPS is quite well known and the project seems to be stalling...
    • by Nutria (679911)

      Well, MIPS is an American architecture too.

      • by ruir (2709173)
        If you were paying the minimum attention to news you would know they licensed the instruction set, but developed a clean room implementation of all the hardware and microcode. Nevertheless, people always fixate on this stupid technical details, and not in debating the big picture, that is the idiocy we are used to in slashdot. And it is rather tiring.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is logical. They have already replaced Windows with ReactOS in their military systems, according to publicly available photos. Googling for reactos russia" also reveals that the government likely funds the development.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @07:40AM (#47287803)

    If security for Russian govenrnment computers were my responsibility, I'd be far more concerned about the attack surface being exposed by all the crap software running on top of that processor, rather than the processor itself. Anyway, ARM is a licensed design, not domestic (unless they're planning on engineering a clean-room version for themselves?)

    I suppose that chipmaking is a nice thing to have domestically, in case the shit hits the fan, but I suppose if I were serious about increasing cybersecurity, I'd be looking at the systems being run within govenrnment and contractors, make as much of it Open Source as possible (or at the very least, buy source licenses), and then continually audit and patch the crap out of everything. It's hard, boring, unsexy work, and in this case, it doesn't produce cool headlines for the political class, so we get this story instead.

    This is what you get when you have morons running your government.

    • Actually no sane variation of windows runs on ARM architecture, so they'd be forced to adopt some other OS, possible choices there are mostly opensource.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:08AM (#47287861)

      This isn't something serious, just nationalism and/or cronyism. A real domestic processor project? It wouldn't be "dozens of millions of dollars" it would be tens of billions. Intel spent $10 billion on R&D... in 2013 alone. TSMC, who's just a fab not a designer, spent $1.4 billion in 2013.

      Semiconductor manufacture is EXPENSIVE. A single modern fab easily tops a billion dollars to build, more like $3 billion. That's just to build it, running it and upgrading it can easily cost that much again over a few years. That is projected to grow to about $15 billion for a high end fab in 2020. All that, and you only have the ability to make chips, you don't actually have any chips to make.

      Designing chips is again expensive. You need a bunch of smart, skilled, and experienced engineers and they need to put in a ton of work. It takes years. Companies that do fast design revisions have multiple teams that trade off working on chips, one team will be working on the next gen chip, another team on the gen after that, so that there is enough time to get the designs done.

      So if Russia really wanted their own chips, like their own design, their own production, and all that, and wanted said chips to be on the same level as modern chips from Intel, IBM, etc, well they'd have to spend a ton of money, and a good amount of time.

      This is, as you say, posturing. License an existing core design (made by Western nations), build an older technology fab, and produce some low end chips that aren't really that useful.

      • by careysub (976506) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:33AM (#47288125)

        ...

        So if Russia really wanted their own chips, like their own design, their own production, and all that, and wanted said chips to be on the same level as modern chips from Intel, IBM, etc, well they'd have to spend a ton of money, and a good amount of time.

        ...

        All is as you say. But your conditional statement reveals why your argument is irrelevant.

        Why do the Russian chips need "to be on the same level as modern chips from Intel, IBM, etc,"? They aren't trying to compete against those companies. They aren't selling them on the open market. They are simply using them of desktop computers and servers in the government, by government purchasing decision.

        Commercial processors reached the level that they can fulfill all the real functional needs of the vast majority of desktop applications years ago. A decade old chip running decade old office software can do everything nearly everyone working in an office needs to do as well as the latest and "greatest". Microsoft, Intel, and the PC makers now work in quasi-collusion to force "upgrades" on businesses that do not need them or want them to keep the revenue flowing, but with diminishing success at doing so. Witness the fact that 28% of PCs still run Windows XP [dailytech.com] despite facing the artificial pressure of support termination by Microsoft, and not being able to buy any XP computers for years.

        The advantages of using the newest chips have little or nothing to do with supporting the core office functions for which they are purchased - it is to run "eye candy", power saving (not an issue Russia cares about), or applications that actually harm typical office productivity.

        The issue is a bit more complicated for servers - but most server applications only require a tiny fraction of modern chip capabilities, which is why high degrees of virtualization are now common. The Russians will have to use more server chips, but each app will still run fine.

      • "This isn't something serious, just nationalism and/or cronyism. A real domestic processor project? It wouldn't be "dozens of millions of dollars" it would be tens of billions. Intel spent $10 billion on R&D... in 2013 alone. TSMC, who's just a fab not a designer, spent $1.4 billion in 2013."

        I won't dispute your figures, but I do find them on the high side.

        First, the budget for such a project doesn't need to be spent in one-go. The project can be developed in stages with the money spent being increased

      • This. And opportunity cost. In reality, Russia probably have better uses for that money.

  • by WoTG (610710) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @08:25AM (#47287903) Homepage Journal

    This is kind of interesting... but they don't have a modern fab in Russia, do they? It'll take a lot of foreign parts to build a domestic fab...

    • by richtopia (924742)
      I doubt that a fab could even be built as Russia is on a couple technology transfer lists. When they state Russian made I imagine it will actually be sent to TSMC or other foundry with design in Russia
  • This is global capitalism at its best :-) . Now all the US (and Korean and Chinese and Japanese and...) chip manufacturers have a whole nation of potential new competitors. The New Russia is out to crush all economic competitors! Communism within the borders but Capitalism to conquer the world!

    (you can assign your own level of humor, sarcasm, and paranoia to this post.)

  • Okayyyy! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chas (5144) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:16AM (#47288061) Homepage Journal

    But then they won't be able to pirate Windows for these systems.

    Oops! Was I not supposed to point out the elephant in the room?

    • by Nutria (679911)

      You really deserve a "+5 Insightful" (mainly because I was thinking the exact same thing).

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Well it would certainly be odd to spend a couple billion developing a fab to ensure the integrity of the supply chain for your chips, only to install an OS from the Pirate Bay on it.
  • by Mike Frett (2811077) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:31AM (#47288115)

    Hear me out. The more Countries that turn from American Hardware/Software, the more American Companies will question cooperating with agencies like the NSA. How can that not be good news? unless you care nothing about your rights or the Constitution.

  • At Borat Computerz wez use the bestz componentz from Siberia. Only the bezt zlave er I mean dedicat3d workerz r used. We no copyz Amerikan computerz we only do for muther Ruzia.

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