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Intel 'acquires' Russian Itanium killer's R&D staff

And its technology, too

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Intel today confirmed Russian news reports that it has entered into an R&D relationship with chip designers Elbrus and UniPro.

Elbrus, Register readers may recall, is the developer of the E2K - once touted as the world's first Itanium clone.

The structure of deal is unusual. While Intel was at pains to point out that the arrangement does not represent an acquisition, it nevertheless will end up with key researchers from both companies joining its existing Moscow and St. Petersburg research establishments.

The chip giant currently has around 400 R&D employees in Russia. Today's deal will take that figure to upwards of 1000 research staff.

Intel will also again technology assets and other intellectual property from the two firms, a spokesman revealed today.

Financial terms of the two deals were not disclosed.

Elbrus brings to Intel considerable experience in the development of high-end microprocessors - the company is best known for churning out Sparc clones - chip-sets and hardware. Its founder, Boris Babaian, led the development of the first superscalar chip design years before Western chip companies began to use that technique. He and his staff also worked on Explicitly Parallel Instruction set Computing (Epic), multi-processing and shared memory techniques - all key Itanium features - well ahead of Intel and HP.

UniPro is an IT software services and outsourcing specialist, but its CEO, Ivan Golosov, has a long-standing reputation in the field of compiler development, so there's more of a fit with Intel than might at first appear to be the case.

The two tie-ins follow Intel's increased use of overseas R&D teams. The original 130nm Pentium M chip, 'Banias', and its 90nm successor, 'Dothan', come out of Intel's labs in Isreal, while the future workstation/server processor, 'Whitefield' is being developed in India. The Russian teams may not be working on a specific processor, but their work is likely to target future Itanium releases and their ancillary chipsets and software. Itanium performance is exceptionally compiler-dependent, more so than other processor platforms.

In an interesting aside, Elbrus also claims to have helped Transmeta and worked with Sun. Intel's deal may preclude such work in the future. ®

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