All-Russian 'Elbrus' PCs and servers go on sale
Fool the NSA by buying an underpowered, exotic SPARC machine
Russia's Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies has started taking orders for PCs and servers using locally-developed “Elbrus 4c” CPUs.
It's unclear if the new products have been ordered by the Kremlin, which last year responded to the many Snowden revelations by declaring it would create its own ARM chippery to stop the NSA sucking data from compromised American kit.
The Elbrus 4c used in the PCs and servers is said to support two instruction sets: very long instruction word and SPARC. It's also said to be capable of x86 emulation, and to run Linux natively, after one performs binary translation.
The CPU is otherwise unremarkable: it packs four cores, but they stroll along at 800 MHz and are built using a 65 nm process.
The Elbrus ARM-401 PC is a minitower packing a version of Linux also called Elbrus and boasts four USB 2.0 ports, a PCI-express slot, gigabit ethernet and not much more.
The CPU is apparently capable of running Doom 3,enabling Russian gamers to go fragging like its 2004.
The Server Elbrus 4.4 is a four-socket affair and four of the machines fit into a 1U chassis. Gigabit ethernet, SATA and plenty of PCI slots connect it to other kit and the rest of the worlds.
MCST has announced the products are on sale, but don't expect an online configurator at which you can run up a rig and get a live price: the outfit offers just the email@example.com email address for would-be buyers.
If MCST's promise of compatibility with other operating systems and code written for them is accurate, and performance in that mode decent, its conceivable Russian outfits worried about NSA backdoors in Intel and AMD kit have themselves a platform on which to get some decent work done. Running complex workloads looks rather less likely.
Don't sneer at this stuff, however, just because it looks a bit outdated, isolated and odd. An analyst recently pointed out to The Reg that Chinese outfit Sangfor now sells a decent server virtualisation stack but doesn't bother marketing it beyond the middle kingdom because it feels the local opportunity is all it needs for now. Elbrus PCs and servers might not stack up against kit on sale beyond Russia's borders, but a few million purchasers inside the old iron curtain would make for a decent market. ®
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