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Russian gov to dump x86, bake own 64-bit ARM chips - reports

ARM advocates and NSA back-door paranoids rejoice!

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Russian news outlet Kommersant has reported that the nation's government wants to ditch Intel and AMD processors in favour of a locally-developed ARM effort.

The outlet's report suggests three state-owned Russian companies are banding together to develop to be called “Baikal” that will use ARM's 64-bit kernel Cortex A-57 as its base design, offer at least eight cores, be built with a 28nm process and run at 2GHz or more in PCs or servers.

The report also says “It is assumed that Baikal will be delivered to the authorities and state-owned companies.”

Russia's ”central state information agency” ITR-TASS, picked up on Kommersant's report and in its own effort writes that Baikal “will be installed on computers of government bodies and in state-run firms, which purchase some 700,000 personal computers annually worth $500 million and 300,000 servers worth $800 million.”

While both ITR-TASS and Kommersant say Baikal will find its home in computers run by state-owned entities, neither suggests there's a national security angle behind the decision.

That's not stopped Phoronix from declaring that “For strict security enthusiasts believing AMD and Intel have been compromised by the NSA or other US agencies, it's time to celebrate.”

Setting aside that kind of thinking, a move to 64-bit ARM by entities that collectively acquire a million devices a year would be significant because of boost it would give ARM-based servers and PCs.

Such devices are, at present, largely hypothetical. But with Amazon Web Services, Google and Facebook all reported to be considering their own ARM designs to keep their servers' operating costs down, interest in the idea is considerable. Startups are having a go, too: at Computex The Reg met Cavium, a purveyor of 48-core chippery it is aiming at the server market.

Cavium's staff includes folks from failed ARM server chipmaker Calxeda, who told us they feel that effort flopped because not enough enterprise software runs on ARM. That's no longer quite such a problem. If Russia follows this path, and the rules of open source, the problem could disappear entirely. ®

Bootnote

Vulture Central's backroom gremlins note that Baikal was a Soviet-era arms company best known for building cheap'n'cheerful shotguns that had more in common with mass-produced tractors than, say, a pair of side-by-side Purdeys.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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