Russia to ditch Intel and AMD for ARM-based processors in government computers


Government computers in Russia may soon be running on the ARM architecture that is today best known for powering mobile devices. Asccording to recent local reports, the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry wants to ditch Intel and AMD’s x86-based chips for an upcoming generation of Linux-based computers.

The new “Baikal” processors will be built by Moscow-based Baikal Electronics, a division of supercomputer-maker T-Platforms, with funding coming from tech firm Rosnano and defense giant Rostec, both of which are state-run. The first iterations, slated to appear from early 2015, will use ARM’s Cortex A-57 design and run at 2GHz. They will be manufactured using the 28nm process and used in both PCs and servers.

According to Kommersant, Russian government bodies and state-run companies buy 700,000 PCs and 300,000 servers a year, at values of $500 million and $300 million, respectively.

Some are interpreting this switch away from U.S. vendors as a product of concerns over U.S. espionage, perhaps due to suspicions of hardware backdoors. If that’s correct, then Russia is joining China in a pushback that may have as much to do with boosting local vendors as it does with state security. As it happens, Russia does not have the facilities to manufacture processors using the 28nm process, so production of the Baikal chips will probably have to happen somewhere like Taiwan.

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