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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  • mode_13h - Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - link

    Baby steps? Just getting on the path to RISC-V will let them decouple further, in the next iteration.
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    At some point we will reach the end of node scaling, and maybe after that fab costs will decline and all big countries will have their own for national security reasons. One problem is the EUV/high-NA EUV equipment which ASML has a stranglehold on. One possible solution is building 3D chips on older nodes.
  • defaultluser - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    This is going to require a new Linux distro (if they want anyone to take desktop Linux seriously on R5 by 2025)

    Remember Red Flag Linux (one of the few attempts to make a mainstream MIPS-compatible distro)? I expect the same will happen here!

    it will end-up shuttered just the same (I wouldn't expect the same mainstream support ARM received only after dozens of cheap tweak-able systems were launched)!

    With cheap ARM systems already pervasive for a decade, there isn't a lot of room for a similar influx of RISCV tweakers SBCs - not unless the performance improvement is embarrassingly high!
  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    it's hard to see how this 'Russian' processor is any more secure, in Moscow's paranoia, if it's built in a fab not in Russia? doesn't matter what ISA it's based on. what matters is who makes the thing. does anyone think they're smarter enough and possess enough tools to ferret out the vectors?? for myself, no.

    as to the notion of space superiority: that lies strictly, and only, in the history of nucular ICBMs betwixt Moscow and USofA. Russia went with fat, crude bombs, which were easier to make, and thus needed big motors, which were easier to scale. the USofA went with lighter, sophisticated bombs, which could be flung with smaller motors. remember: we didn't get *all* of the Nazi rocket men; Russia got at least a fair share.
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    It could be seen as a stepping stone to future products made on their own fabs, but that is optimstic. China obviously has more resources to make that happen, and it has SMIC, which will eventually catch up to TSMC, Samsung et al. if semiconductor fabrication reaches fundamental limits.
  • mode_13h - Sunday, July 18, 2021 - link

    Russia is already well on their way to becoming a client state of China.
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, July 19, 2021 - link

    "Russia is already well on their way to becoming a client state of China."

    Da! but so cruel.
  • mode_13h - Sunday, July 18, 2021 - link

    The security doesn't come from the ISA. I'm sure x86 is hurt by its complex ISA, but the choice of RISC-V is surely pragmatic and strategic, chosen based on existing OS/tools support and minimization of foreign dependencies.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, July 16, 2021 - link

    Fantastic News. Hopefully this results in enough work to make RISC-V a viable ARM alternative.
  • Robort Rich - Saturday, July 24, 2021 - link

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