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 - Sunday, July 18, 2021 - link

    > Anyone can check the code.

    There's also a fair amount of automated testing and analysis that gets performed on the mainline kernel. It's not just reliance on human eyeballs & brains.
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, July 19, 2021 - link

    Custom code. Custom builds.

    Running on custom hardware.

    None of which is available to the public.
  • mode_13h - Monday, July 19, 2021 - link

    > Custom code. Custom builds.
    > Running on custom hardware.
    > None of which is available to the public.

    You mean when Russia runs software on this CPU? The question we were trying to answer is how Russia can have faith in Linux.

    If you're suddenly shifting to advocate for its end users, among the general public, that's a different question and one we can't yet answer. It depends a lot on whether they're going to do anything to lock down which OS the systems can boot.

    And I don't expect the hardware to be backdoored. If you want backdoors, putting them in software that's tied to the hardware via signature requirements is a much more manageable approach. That way, if exploits of your backdoor get out into the wild, you can close it & open a new one, via a simple software update.
  • Oxford Guy - Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - link

    ‘You mean when Russia runs software on this CPU?’

    I am referring to Linux being secure in general, clearly.
  • Santoval - Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - link

    Russia neither has the money nor the growth for "superpower aspirations". They just have nukes. China has all three though.
  • ZolaIII - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    Russia actually has a lot of natural resources they didn't cashed in but that's not a big problem and in the end resources worth more. They have much more then nukes including most reliable and advanced space program for example that all others have hard time to complete with including US which still pays for it's cab service. There's only one last standing unicorn and that's advanced IC's. US is actually a handbraking the progres, naturally trying to preserve last monopoly it owns. But anyway any brake on the path of progress is a bad thing.
    The "supper power" crap is so irrelevant in one world which no one can possess. China is rather pore on some natural resources (quality steel, energy resources, quality rich on others (for instance Lithium). What they have is man resources and social engendering which is more than enough for them not to make educated guess but make sure it happens.
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    Their space program has been a mess lately and it's not well funded. See all the failed science missions, the hole in the ISS debacle, and other problems with Roscosmos. It was propped up by the U.S. post-1991 to keep Russian engineers from wandering off and building rockets for terror groups. Any ambitious Russian space stuff you hear about will either not happen or will be in close partnership with China.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    "most reliable and advanced space program"
    Uhhh, no. Only if you pretend SpaceX doesn't exist because it's not the US government, but given that NASA paying for launches with SpaceX is cheaper than what both the US and Russian governments can do, it's a moot point.

    Russia's main handbrake on their future success is their shitty authoritarian government and the endemic corruption it fosters. It makes the USA look positively democratic, fair and above-board by comparison.
  • ZolaIII - Thursday, July 15, 2021 - link

    I take that (SpaceX) as still in development and talked about last two decades. But have it your way than, most advanced rocketry program.
    They shitty authoritarian government actually looks way better than a fosil or bitter fool before it in US. By the way it's democratically elected one and if you think how you actually have more choice in US or for that matter ever had we'll think a bit harder. Any way this is not a place for politics. I doubt US impresses anyone with over 5% inflation right now and doubt it ever will after events from last year related to teach sector and human rights.
  • mode_13h - Friday, July 16, 2021 - link

    > By the way it's democratically elected one

    It's about as democratic as the old Soviet elections.

    > Any way this is not a place for politics.

    Then why'd you bring up democracy? Don't try to have it both ways.

    > I doubt US impresses anyone with over 5% inflation right now

    But macroeconomics is any more relevant? 5% inflation is a blip and related to the pandemic. Let's have another look at it, a year from now.

    > doubt it ever will after events from last year related to teach sector and human rights.

    By "human rights", presumably you mean BLM? At least the US can deal with these problems openly. That's the only way to make progress.

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