Russia to drop x86 in favor of home-grown 64-bit ARM chips

medium_2396656346The Russian government is looking to ditch processors made by Intel and AMD and replace them with a local flavor of ARM, according to numerous reports.

Kommersant says a group of three state-owned Russian companies is working to develop a home-grown ARM processor known as Baikal that will use ARM’s 64-bit Cortex A-57 as a design base, will be built using a 28nm process, come with up to eight cores and run at speeds of 2GHz or more in servers and PCs. “It is assumed that Baikal will be delivered to the authorities and state-owned companies,” notes Kommersant.

The report was picked up by ITR-TASS, Russia’s central state information agency, which added that Baikal will be used to power servers and computers used by both government agencies and state-owned companies. That’s a big deal, considering that those entities together purchase some 300,000 servers and 700,000 PCs each year at a total cost of some $1.3 billion. Neither report mentioned security as a motive, but recent revelations about U.S. technology vendors cooperating with the National Security Agency can’t have contributed to peace of mind at the Kremlin.

The news site Phoronix speculated that security and the NSA drive the  Russian government’s decision, adding that for those who believe Intel and AMD have been compromised by the NSA, “it’s time to celebrate”.

The move could be a huge boost to adherents of servers and PCs based on ARM processors, which are currently use mostly for mobile and embedded devices. Google, Facebook and Amazon Web Services are all reportedly interested in building their own ARM-based machinery as a way of reducing operating costs. There’s also a lot of interest in the idea from startups, such as Cavium, which is developing 48-core ARM chips for use in servers.

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