St. Petersburg and Germany’s Stuttgart collaborate in supercomputers
The St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University has announced collaboration with Germany’s University of Stuttgart in advanced supercomputing technologies. A St. Pete Polytechnic delegation visited Stuttgart’s HLRS Supercomputer Center last month.
The partners discussed the inception phase of a sizable joint project aimed at adapting a complex software code which the Russian university has developed to the petaflops class supercomputing resources the University of Stuttgart has.
To pick and implement the best possible solutions for parallel programming the partners want to do preliminary assessment of the software code. The HLRS experts will be joined in this effort by colleagues from Russia’s Institute of Applied Mathematics, a partner in the project and leader in the development of algorithms and large software systems for Russian computing.
The endeavor calls for the creation of an international team of experts; funding is expected to come from both HLRS and the Russian Fundamental Research Fund. As a result of the effort, the partners will receive new knowledge for the development of sophisticated software and hardware complexes to do forecasting modeling on petaflops supercomputers. The results will then be transferred into new curricula for masters and postgraduates in virtual prototyping for mechanical engineering—a new research area in Russia.
Russia banking on home grown chips
A Russian firm announced its intention to build its own homegrown CPUs as part of a cunning plan to keep the Americans from spying on the glorious Empire of Tsar Putin and oil oligarchs.
Moscow Centre of SPARC Technologies (MCST) has announced it’s now taking orders for its Russian-made microprocessors from domestic computer and server manufacturers.
Dubbed the Elbrus-4C, it was fully designed and developed in MCST’s Moscow labs. It’s claimed to be the most high-tech processor ever built in Russia. They claim it is comparable with Intel’s Core i3 and Intel Core i5 processors, although they do not say what generation as one spec we found claimed it could manage a blistering 1.3 GHz which is slightly less than an average mobile phone.
MCST unveiled a new PC, the Elbrus ARM-401 which is powered by the Elbrus-4C chip and runs its own Linux-based Elbrus operating system. MCST claimed it can run Windows and Linux distributions. Yhe company has built a data centre server rack, the Elbrus-4.4, which is powered by four Elbrus-4C microprocessors and supports up to 384GB of RAM.
MCST said the Elbrus-4.4 is suitable for web servers, database servers, storage systems, servers, remote desktops and high-performance clusters.
Sergei Viljanen, editor in chief of the Russian-language PCWorld website said that the chip was at least five years behind the west.
“Russian processor technology is still about five years behind the west. Intel’s chips come with a 14nm design, whereas the Elbrus is 65 nm, which means they have a much higher energy consumption.”
MCST’s Elbrus-4C chips are powered by a 4-core processors, and come with an interface for hard drives and other peripherals. The company finalized development of Elbrus-4C in April 2014, and began mass production last autumn .
Russia now selling home-grown CPUs with Transmeta-like x86 emulation
Russia joins China in seeking technological independence from the US.
The Russian company MCST (Moscow Center for SPARC Technologies) has released the Elbrus-4C, a reasonably high-performance quad-core CPU that may grant Russia some technological independence from American chip-making giants Intel and AMD.
Despite the company’s name, the Elbrus-4C uses the Elbrus ISA (instruction set architecture), not SPARC. Elbrus is a closed and proprietary architecture, so exact details are hard to come by, but we do know about one particularly interesting feature: x86 emulation. If you remember the Transmeta Crusoe, it sounds like the Elbrus architecture does something very similar: at run-time, x86 program code can be translated and executed through a virtual machine. This method isn’t as fast as providing x86 support in hardware, but it gets the job done.
The Elbrus-4C, while highly advanced by home-grown Russian standards, is by no means a bleeding-edge chip; it’s a quad-core part built on TSMC’s last-last-generation 65nm process. It’s capable of hitting a rather heady clockspeed of 800MHz, which equates to (a fairly decent) 25 gigaflops of 64-bit double-precision math. The tech specs say that the Elbrus-4C has 986 million transistors, which is pretty hefty considering there’s no integrated GPU. All in all, Elbrus-4C is probably a few years behind western chips, but it’s difficult to make a direct comparison.
There’s operating system support, too: MCST is selling a complete computer (confusingly called an Elbrus ARM-401) that comes with an Elbrus-compatible Linux distro called—you guessed it—Elbrus. The ARM-401 product page says it also supports Windows XP and other x86-compatible operating systems through the CPU’s x86 abstraction layer.
Pricing on the Elbrus-4C is unknown, but a report by the Russian website Kommersant says the chip is “cheaper” than chips out of the US.
In recent years, there has been a marked move by countries such as Russia and China to use home-grown chips, rather than continuing to rely on American technology. While China’s latest-and-greatest supercomputer Tianhe-2 uses Intel chips, the country has also started building smaller supercomputers based on the country’s own MIPS-based Loongson CPUs. Russia has stated that it would like to build a home-grown exascale supercomputer by 2020, but it isn’t clear if Elbrus chips will be used.