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Russian Company Unveils Homegrown PC Chips 268

Reader WheatGrass shares the news from Russia Insider that MCST, Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies, has begun taking orders for Russian-made computer chips, though at least one expert quoted warns that the technology lags five years behind that of western companies; that sounds about right, in that the chips are described as "comparable with Intel Corp’s Core i3 and Intel Core i5 processors." Also from the article: Besides the chips, MCST unveiled a new PC, the Elbrus ARM-401 which is powered by the Elbrus-4C chip and runs its own Linux-based Elbrus operating system. MCST said that other operating systems, including Microsoft’s Windows and other Linux distributions, can be installed on the Elbrus ARM-401. Finally, the company has built its own data center server rack, the Elbrus-4.4, which is powered by four Elbrus-4C microprocessors and supports up to 384GB of RAM.
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Russian Company Unveils Homegrown PC Chips

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  • about time (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2015 @06:06PM (#49660523)

    About time. We can't trust the Asian chips anymore.

    At least the Ruskies have good security.

    • Re:about time (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @08:27PM (#49661181)

      We can't trust the Asian chips anymore.

      These are fabricated in Taiwan. You had best keep using your abacus for a while longer.

    • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @08:34PM (#49661211)

      Lev Andropov: It's stuck, yes?
      Watts: Back off! You don't know the components!
      Lev Andropov: [annoyed] Components. American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!

  • Fear of the West? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anchovy_chekov ( 1935296 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @06:21PM (#49660585)
    I know Russians who are busily working on all sorts of interesting technologies in-house (SCADA, DCS, etc) There seems to be a real fear that if sanctions increase they'll be cut off from technology they need to run their industrial systems. It seems to have sparked a renaissance in the local software community, hell-bent of forging a form of self-reliance. Interesting to see where all this leads.
    • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @06:41PM (#49660701)

      Fear of whoever. You don't try to guess the intentions of other countries. They can change. You figure out their capabilities and then have back up plans.

      After Stuxnet and some of the other recent attacks around the world, I'd be a bit concerned about using foreign made technology in critical control systems. Who knows what's been inserted in the silicon.

      Even without that, if I were the Russians and facing the uncertainty they are, I'd want to maintain the ability to make my own chips if things soured further with the west, (or the Chinese. Just because things are going reasonably well between Moscow and Beijing doesn't mean they always will be).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CODiNE ( 27417 )

      Why go through all that effort reinventing the wheel? It would be much easier to invalidate foreign copyrights and simply pirate everything.

      More likely it's for increased security and avoiding a single-supplier system, plus a bit of economic stimulus added in for good measure.

      • Re:Fear of the West? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by edmudama ( 155475 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @07:26PM (#49660911)

        Except that a modern CPU is too difficult to manufacture. Copying the transistors in a CAD program is the easy part, building it with a usable yield is the hard part.

        • Only if one tries to build it on the latest process technology. But if the target customer is not average Russian citizens but rather the Russian military industrial complex, then they could build it on fabs that are behind by even 5 generations. They're in any case not likely to make a huge top line on volumes, and their target customers - the Russian government, or other Russian military institutions or Gazprom - are not likely to turn them down in favor of companies from countries that have sanctions r
          • I was answering why they don't just invalidate the patents and copy a modern CPU, and the answer is that the patents aren't the reason they're hard to copy. Intel (and others) don't patent their most critical secrets.

            I completely agree they have the technology to build older designs, which is just fine. They can then decide whether the investment to upgrade is worth it to them or not.

      • by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @08:00PM (#49661071)

        Because sometimes, the best way to learn how to make a wheel is to reinvent it. Copying is also good for learning, but if you really want to master the technology you have to build something from scratch.

      • It would be much easier to invalidate foreign copyrights

        In order to do that, you would have to revoke the Berne Convention, and once you do that, you're kicked out of the World Trade Organization. A country that leaves the WTO would have a hard time exporting anything as WTO members enact punitive import duties against that country.

      • Russia's 2012 WTO ascendancy required them to have already made, and continue to make, improvements in respecting intellectual property. I believe it took Russia 16 years of trade improvement to join the WTO. Taking an official policy supporting that kind of piracy would be very, very destructive in any term other than the short term.

            -, .

        • What about an unofficial policy? It's illegal, but the courts always find any case invalid on some tiny technicality?

    • Re:Fear of the West? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by towermac ( 752159 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @07:03PM (#49660805)

      Just one example of how the sanctions are nothing but good for Russia. Nobody in the West seems to get that. You can't make Russians suffer; they do that on their own.

      Up is down; black is white, and Putin is brilliant. Russia will be a far stronger, richer, better country when he's done.

      • Richer? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by daninaustin ( 985354 )
        The US isn't richer because of it's adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq and Russian won't be richer because of it's adventures in Ukraine, Georgia,etc. It's more likely to be bankrupt or in ruins. Of course by that time there will be no independent journalists to ask questions and everything will be glorious much in the way that it is becoming in Venezuela.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Adventures in Ukraine? Oh - you're talking about the Brothers Cock. They saw a potential market, destabilized the government, and installed their own puppets. They didn't care how closely those puppets might be aligned with fascism or nazism, the Brothers Cock wanted their own puppets.

          Russian adventurism? That's old history. The US continued that saga in Afghanistan, investing billions of dollars in subduing a people who just won't subdue.

          Isn't adventurism a wonderful thing?

          You know you really shouldn'

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rahvin112 ( 446269 )

        With an economy 97% based on carbon energy when the rest of the world does something about climate change (and it's not that far off, it's already started with solar power becoming cheaper than coal power) Russia will be left high and dry in a economy worse than the 90's. This will be entirely Putin's fault because he's prioritized carbon based energy above everything else.

        Like all things Russian this attempt at self production will fail because the corruption and governance problem (the true hallmark of Pu

    • Hey, I'm an American and I'd like to have one of these Russian PCs for more or less the same reason! Sometimes it's nice to have a weird foreign architecture [schneier.com] around...

  • by Linux Torvalds ( 3819617 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @06:23PM (#49660595) Homepage
    about time to become independent and make surveillance harder
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I wasn't expecting a paranoia induced non-sequitur from a kernel maintainer, but here we are.

      Certainly, your source code is public, and I could read every line of it. I have maintained that I could, if I wanted to, read and lean and understand and trust every NSA contribution to cryptography. Many disagreed, that I might need some sort of education in maths or something.

      My position is now, I don't want to. I don't care what happens to an infiltrated Russian chip maker. I do care what happens to Intel an

      • Do you really believe you are replying to Linus? The username isn't even spelt right.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Back in the day we had systems with dual processors running half a clock apart. If one CPU ran into certain types of problem the other could be stopped before it hit them and a jump to some handler code made. It seems like we could do with something similar now where the operation of two different CPUs could be compared to see if one is acting suspiciously.

        Unfortunately it's probably impossible with complex CPUs that have big caches and OoO execution etc.

  • by bangular ( 736791 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @06:32PM (#49660663)
    There's little we couldn't do 5 years ago because of lack CPU power that we can magically do today. Scientific computing included.
    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @07:03PM (#49660807)

      Sadly, their brags of "only five years behind" is an underestimate. It's a 65nm chip - its heyday was 2006-2007, on tail-end Pentium IVs, early Core 2, and Phenoms. 45nm hit in 2008, followed by 32nm in 2010. In 2012 Intel hit 22nm, but most others were on a 28nm half-node. Currently, 14nm is shipping from some vendors, and the rest are gearing up for it.

      Account for the fact that these chips most likely won't actually be delivered until 2016, and you'll see they're really 10 years behind, not 5. That will probably still be fine for desktops or industrial use, but mobile is out, and servers will be very inefficient compared to modern ones.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @07:23PM (#49660899) Homepage

        You really don't need all that much CPU power to 'securely' push around data and that's is what will become the number focus for government, 'SECURELY' pushing around data. Any country that does not produce it own chips and tech components leaves itself a slave to those countries that do. A simple shut down code can be embedded anywhere in hardware and be virtually impossible to discover until activated. No country can be trusted with that kind of power over another country. One flick of the switch and all your infrastructure could be shut down, until all of the equipment controlling it has been replaced and this when all of the infrastructure needed to manage that replacement has been shut down. A completely manual process that would take weeks even months, with all digital communications shut down. With a population left to go hungry in the dark with the communications infrastructure required to manage food handling from farm, to processing, to warehousing, to retailing and of course computers in vehicles. Of course defence forces will have insured their transport vehicles are free of digital control systems to ensure electronic durability with a lack of electronics, oh wait. Computers are handy but they are as vulnerable as hell. One ill time major solar flare and we have some pretty severe problems, much like a now opposed country hitting the off switch (the country in the world least to be trusted, should be pretty bloody obvious to everyone by now, USA, USA, USA, well done - not).

      • by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @08:21PM (#49661163)

        ...these chips most likely won't actually be delivered until 2016...

        I don't see why there would be such a delay when the article says:

        The company finalized development of Elbrus-4C in April 2014, and began mass production last fall.

        As for the "five years behind comment" (which was not anyone bragging but instead criticising), I suspect that the article mashed together two different quotes into one. In terms of performance (which put them between the i3 & i5), they are five years behind mainstream performance. But it is difficult to compare this and the other performance metrics because of the architectural differences. This isn't a x86 CPU, it is more of a hybrid design. It runs at a very low clock speed (800MHz) and it's power requirements (45W) are low for a 65nm process.

        It's not really the important part of the story though. For some countries affected by US export restrictions, having an alternate supplier makes them better than nothing. This CPU will not make the company a household name in the West, but they will continue to have a market in the places that the big boys can't play.

      • by Xolotl ( 675282 )
        Intel shipped 65nm Itanium Tukwila in 2010, Elbrus is most similar to that (VLIW/EPIC).
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Manufacturing process is decidedly not everything.

  • by Marc Nicholas ( 3924913 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @06:37PM (#49660685)
    ....chips overclock *you*!
  • 65nm isn't "competitive". It's 10 years old. It might compete with the original Athlon 64. Certainly not with anything modern.
    • Hm. 10 years you say?

      About time for vanilla WoW to hit Russia in a big way.

      • by edremy ( 36408 )
        I'm typing this on a desktop running a Conroe-version Core 2 Duo: 65nm process. I just got finished running a game of Borderlands 2 with all of the options cranked up.

        Yeah, yeah, I know that's primarily GPU, but the idea that somehow a C2D is a crippled chip is absurd. This thing is fine for pretty much everything I throw at it. The biggest bottlenecks it has right now are the 4GB RAM on the motherboard and the USB2-based wireless adapter- the CPU basically doesn't hold it back at all. The only thing t

        • Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz here, my only limitations are 8GB RAM and a slow mechanical HDD - otherwise I don't have any problems.

    • by Xolotl ( 675282 )
      Architecturally the Itanium line is the closest western equivalent to the Elbrus (though without Elbrus' x68 translation), and the Itanium Tukwila from 2010 was 65nm. Hence the 5 years.
  • If they can compete, good
    If they can't, oh well.
  • https://meduza.io/en/lion/2015... [meduza.io]

    According to this site, it costs $4,000.

    • $4000 is for a very early complete unit. It's really more of a developers kit at this point. The article you cite says the price will fall substantially when mass production begins.

      So $4000 gives you early access to what they doubtless hope will be a big market when they start selling real units. If you want your code running on the boxes when they hit the market, that's just an ordinary business expense.

  • ...that the chip's hard-wired back door leads to an agency using Cyrillic letters for its initials rather than English ones.

  • Canada too (Score:4, Funny)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @08:37PM (#49661217)

    We've started developing our own processors too, but since they're made of wood they tend to ignite past 400MHz.

    • I still have a few tubes of old 6100 processors. They're novel in that they have a 12 bit architecture and run the PDP-8 Instruction Set.

      And they're implemented in static CMOS. So you can clock them at 1 Hz if you like, Properly implemented you can experience the old 'blinking lights' minicomputer with your homebuilt machine.

  • What about RAM? Hard disks? Network chips?
  • So many names in summary/article. Is it SPARC architecture? ARM architecture? Or a different one?

Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

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