A RISC-V core prototype. Image by Wikipedia, CC0

RISC-V has attracted a great deal of interest across the computing industry for its open-source instruction set architecture and rapidly evolving ecosystem. There are reports that Russia plans to build new RISC-V based CPUs by 2025. The new chips would be built in a three-way agreement between Rostoc (a technology investment firm), server company Yadro, and the design firm Syntacore. The total cost of the project is estimated at ~$400 million USD or approximately 30 billion rubles.

The goal is to build 60,000 eight-core CPUs clocked at 2GHz for government systems, Anandtech reports. The project budget will be provided by anchor customers and the Russian government, with the latter kicking in 1/3 of the total cost. Syntacore already builds RISC-V CPU clusters, so the 2025 chip would seem to be an evolution of products the company has already brought to market.

The highest-end CPU core Syntacore currently sells is the SCR-7. Details on the chip are limited, but the diagram gives us a few hints. We’re looking at a dual-issue chip with a dedicated L1 between 16KB-128KB, split evenly between instructions and data. There’s an L2 cache of between 128KB and 2MB. This appears to be shared between the entire CPU cluster, which would work out to something between 16KB and 256KB of L2 per core. The pipeline is listed as 10-12 stages and the core is obviously still intended for lightweight workloads, though Linux support is already enabled.

RISC-V made headlines last month after rumors broke that Intel might buy SiFive. SiFive is the highest-performing RISC-V CPU design firm currently in existence, and while its CPU cores are no match for what Intel, AMD, and high-end smartphone vendors ship right now, performance has improved rapidly over the past few years. At present, Intel and SiFive have announced plans to work together, but not a buyout.

Yesterday, computer scientists presenting at the Fifth Workshop on Computer Architecture Research demoed support for OpenCL running on RISC-V, with the goal of allowing new scientific applications to run on the architecture. RISC-V has also gotten some attention in China, where it has reportedly been seen as a way to safeguard against the IP controls the United States leverages through the Entity List. Organizations and individuals on the Entity List “are subject to specific license requirements for the export, re-export and/or transfer (in-country) of specified items.” China has also showcased its XiangShan RISC-V CPU, which is said to be built on 28nm and hits clock speeds of 1.3GHz. China wants to compete against the Cortex-A76 with the CPU, but that’s going to be an iterative process over several years. It’ll also require access to more advanced processing nodes than 28nm.

Anandtech believes the new Russian core will be built at GlobalFoundries on that company’s 12nm process. An 8-core, 2GHz CPU by 2025 is not a tremendous competitor for what Intel, AMD, and ARM will be shipping by then, but it takes time to build a homegrown microprocessor. Russia may want to decrease the risk that its own access to semiconductors could be impeded by future clashes with the United States. Investing in RISC-V is an obvious way to mitigate that risk.

Feature image: A RISC-V core prototype. Image by DCoetzee, Wikipedia, CC0

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