Russian outlet today is reporting that the conglomerate Rostec, a Russian state-backed corporation specializing in investment in technology, has penned a deal with server company Yadro and silicon design company Syntacore to develop RISC-V processors for computers, laptops, and servers. Initial reports are suggesting that Syntacore will develop a powerful enough RISC-V design to power government and education systems by 2025.

The cost of the project is reported to be around 30 billion rubles ($400m), with that the organizers of the project plan to sell 60,000 systems based around new processors containing RISC-V cores as the main processing cores. The reports state that the goal is to build an 8-core processor, running at 2 GHz, using a 12-nanometer process, which presumably means GlobalFoundries but at this point it is unclear. Out of the project funding, two-thirds will be provided by ‘anchor customers’ (such as Rostec and subsidiaries), while the final third will come from the federal budget. The systems these processors will go into will operate initially at Russia’s Ministry of Education and Science, as well as the Ministry of Health.

Syntacore already develops its own core with the RISC-V architecture, rather than licensing a design. There have been questions as to whether any current RISC-V design is powerful enough to be used in a day-to-day work machine suitable for administrative services, however with the recent news that Canonical is enabling Ubuntu/Linux on some of SiFive’s RISC-V designs, chances are that by 2025 there will be a sufficient number of software options to choose from should the Russian processor adhere to any specifications required. That being said, it is not uncommon for non-standard processors in places like Russia or China to use older customized forks of Linux to suit the needs of the businesses using the hardware. Syntacore's documentation states that their highest performance 64-bit core already supports Linux.

Syntacore's latest design

This news is an interesting development given that Russia has multiple home-grown CPU prospects in the works already, such as the Elbrus 2000 family of processors that run a custom VLIW instruction set with binary translation for Intel x86 and x86-64; these processors already offer 8-core and multi-socket systems running on Linux. Development on Elbrus is still ongoing with Rostec in the mix, and the project seems focused on high-powered implementations in desktop to server use. In contrast, the new RISC-V development seems to be targeting low-powered implementations for desktop and laptop use. Russia also has Baikal processors using the MIPS32 ISA, built by a Russian supercomputer company.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops: $400m should be sufficient to build a processor and instruct system design at this level, which puts the question on how well the project will execute.

Sources: @torgeek,

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  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, July 21, 2021 - link

    "Norway is a good case in point. They rank 33rd in gross GDP, while Russia ranks 11th. Yet, you seem to agree that Norway is no shithole."

    again, the difference is in intent of the measure. Norway couldn't (to some delta) build a nuke even if they wanted to, so they're low on the GDP scale. OTOH, if you want to know how the Average Norwegian lives vis-a-vis an Average Rusky, then Per Capita is the appropriate measure. or vis-a-vis the USofA, for that matter.
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - link

    Tell that to the WTA who lists Hsieh and others as playing for Chinese Taipei. The WTA is not the only one.

    The eventual takeover of Hong Kong was expected as soon as the British pulled out. The same is for ‘Taiwan’. Incrementalism always wins.
  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    "The eventual takeover of Hong Kong was expected as soon as the British pulled out. The same is for ‘Taiwan’. Incrementalism always wins."

    Beijing just opened a high-speed trainline into Tibet. they've been doing the boa constrictor act in the Himalayas since 1959. the object, of course, is India.
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    It will probably be good enough for the intended purpose, although 8 cores @ 2 GHz doesn't say much about the performance of the RISC-V cores. SiFive's recently announced P550 RISC-V core will be around Cortex-A75 performance which is decent, but other ones are far weaker. Also, maybe the core counts will go up for the desktop and server versions.
  • Wilco1 - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    Using an ancient process severely restricts the achievable performance. TSMC 3nm is ~8 times as dense, enabling wider/faster cores, more cores, more cache, higher frequencies - all at much lower power.

    You'd hope they have higher goals than matching Cortex-A75. It would be really embarrassing if a 2025-era Raspberry Pi outperformed it...
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    If it's meant for office laptops, the performance could be more than enough. I guess that 8x Cortex-A75 @ 2 GHz (just for example) would be up to 2.5-3x faster than the Pi4 and that is treated as a legitimate usable desktop replacement by some. I run Pi4 overclocked to 2 GHz (700 Mhz GPU). Lack of consistent GPU acceleration (due to Broadcom weirdness) is probably a bigger issue than the relatively low CPU performance.

    GlobalFoundries 12LP+ appears to be a substantial improvement over their previous 12nm node, and AMD is rumored to be making low-end "Monet" quad-core Zen 3 APUs on it around 2022 or 2023. If that exists, I expect it to be more than enough for office tasks, although it will probably be faster than this RISC-V product. If Russia goes with GloFo, they should use 12LP+ if they want it to be decent.

    Russia has a history of state-sponsored tech duds, but I think this could be successful or at least good 'nuff while being resistant to foreign spying.
  • Wilco1 - Friday, July 16, 2021 - link

    It looks like they are going to use Syntacore SCR9 cores:

    That clears up a few other things as well, after 12nm they will move to TSMC 6nm, which enables up to 64 cores and up to 3GHz.

    The current generation SCR7 (a 2-way OoO core) has about the same IPC as Cortex-A55:

    That's quite a low slower than Cortex-A75, so SCR9 might not even match that. Yes, it's likely good enough for a basic laptop. However any cheap Arm board in 2025 will use Cortex-A75 (maybe even Cortex-A76). Matching Cortex-A78, now that would be something.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, July 16, 2021 - link

    BUT the 12nm+ node is likely very cheap, and a good option for a first gen product.
  • mode_13h - Sunday, July 18, 2021 - link

    > It would be really embarrassing if a 2025-era Raspberry Pi outperformed it...

    It's a wish that, by 2025, the Pi can be on 12 nm and have 8 cores. I wouldn't bet on it, but it could happen.
  • quadibloc - Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - link

    I would have presumed that the idea is to avoid being vulnerable to a U.S. embargo. But in that case, the processors should not be fabbed at Global Foundries any more than at TSMC; Russia would need to have the chip-making ability itself.

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