Russian processor Elbrus-4C

The world’s first review of the Russian 4-core processor Elbrus-4C.

Part 1: the history of creation

In the minds of the overwhelming majority of inhabitants ingrained idea that in the design of computer technology, our country plays the role of hopeless outsider. US, Europe, and perhaps China – that the leaders of production of modern microprocessors and systems. However, this is not quite true: as the confirmed facts, their own development, we are too, and they are not only close on certain parameters of the latest achievements of semiconductor technology, but something in what they are even superior. As far as our science has advanced in this area and whether you can soon be seen on store shelves domestic processors, and we will cover in our review.

How it all began

I’m sure many have heard that in the time of Stalin’s cybernetics was declared a pseudoscience. Far fewer people know that cybernetics and computer science – this is not the same thing. Just last I developed at that time very active, and in 1948 the Decree of the USSR Council of Ministers №2369 for this purpose was created the Institute of Precision Mechanics and Computer Science, which later received the name of Sergei Alekseyevich Lebedev. Himself Sergey was invited to the Institute in 1950 for developing one of the first domestic BESM-1 computer.

Russian processor Elbrus-4C

But with the coming to power of Nikita Khrushchev, to debunk the “cult of Stalin”, he embarked on copying foreign achievements in this area. Nevertheless, the development of their systems continued, and in 1969, due to the need to equip the strategic systems of special purpose high-performance computer technology, the idea of ​​architectural lines of “Elbrus”. Under the direction of Vsevolod Sergeyevich Burtsev, who later became an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, created a multiprocessor computer system (ERM) “Elbrus-1” was presented to the State Commission, and in 1979 passed the state tests. It was designed on the basis of chips TTL-logic and included 10 processors with a total capacity of 15 million. Operations per second (15 Mflops). At that time, it was a magnificent machine: the first time in the world used a superscalar architecture enabling parallel work several machine instructions. Along with the CPU were specialized: for communication with external devices for fast Fourier transform, to emulate the commands BESM-6 and to address a number of specific tasks. RAM achieved solid volume of 64 MB.

Russian processor Elbrus-4C2

To take advantage of all the benefits of the original architecture and system commands IAC, several institutions have developed not only the operating system, but also high-level programming language for it. And six years later, in 1985, serial production was launched “Elbrus-2”, which was a slightly modernized in terms of circuitry “Elbrus-1”, translated into new components of chips “EC-100” series of ECL technology . This IDC has already reached capacity of 125 Mflops. IAC was built in a modular fashion, with a view of ensuring reliability. Due to its speed and resiliency, he for many years was used in the central facilities of the country’s strategic systems. Only 30 copies were produced MVK “Elbrus-2”.

The next step was the development of a series of project MVK “Elbrus-3.” He led them to a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR Boris Babaian. He suggested that the implementation of advanced architectural concept wide instruction word. A prototype of the machine was made in 1990, but it was not completed debugging due to the termination of funding for the project because of the economic problems of the period.

«SPARC» Technology

Further continuation of “Elbrus” line of development is related to LLP “Moscow SPARC-technology center”, formed in 1992 and later renamed as ZAO “MCST”. The older generation, familiar with microprocessors with 90-ies of the last century, is well remembered SPARC family of processors manufactured by «Sun Microsystems». At that time it was very popular platform in the environment, as they say now, enterprise customers. The company was engaged in the creation of industrial systems based on the SPARC architecture v8, for both foreign and domestic customers. Familiarity with this direction helped MCST how to get experience to develop its own architecture “Elbrus” processor (called at that time “E2K architecture”), or just go through a period of economic difficulties, while maintaining its own unique team.

Russian processor Elbrus-4C4

As a result of work with the new architecture in 2001 at the MCST has its first self-designed microprocessor, called R150. It was produced by a pretty rough process technology with the norms of 350 nm lithography, making it quite cheap and suitable for production on most existing equipment. At the same time, his performance was quite competitive: the total power consumption of only 5 W of its core can operate at a frequency of 150 MHz, providing a performance of 150 Mflops. And only after 3 years was released the next chip – R500, already is issued at rates of 130 nm, which is much more effective. Operating at 500 MHz, it has a capacity of 500 Mflops with a power consumption of 1 W! And even after 3 years, in 2007, there was another product of the evolution of SPARC processor family – R500S, already contains two cores with a total capacity of 1 Gflops.

Russian processor Elbrus-4C3

Note that although this architecture belongs to the category of RISC and is fundamentally incompatible with the Intel x86 architecture, using it for industrial applications this is not a serious problem: still working out the equipment, and software, is carried out in most cases “from scratch” to the needs of a particular customer, so that the potential compatibility with existing software usually does not bring any benefits.

“Elbrus” Series Processors

Despite active work with SPARC architecture, the development of their own areas was continued. In 2000, it was approved by the TOR for computing complex “Elbrus-3M1” and the microprocessor “Elbrus”, and 7 years later, in 2007, the first official tests have been carried out. The efficiency of domestic architecture “Elbrus” was fully demonstrated. He had the following characteristics: fabrication process – 130 nm, single core, clocked at 300 MHz, power consumption of 6 W, capacity 4.8 Gflops.
In 2009, it passed the certification of the operating system “Elbrus”, created based on the Linux 2.6.33 kernel. fundamental work on the Linux operating system transformation has been done in the operating system that supports operation in hard real-time, as well as written many specialized libraries. A significant support ZAO “MCST” in the creation of software and the design of computer modules since 2006 has a team of Open Joint Stock Company “Institute of Electronic Control named Bruk machines” (JSC “Bruk INEUM them.”), Directly involved in the developments.

Russian processor Elbrus foto

The first commercially available microprocessor “Elbrus-S», produced on 90 nm technology, and a controller peripheral interfaces (CPI) tests were for him in 2010. He, too, had only one core, but can operate at a frequency of 500 MHz, giving 8 Gflops performance, but also dissipate significantly more power – up to 20 watts. For comparison, the same performance was at one time the AMD Athlon 64 processor, clocked at 2.2 GHz.
Just a year later, in 2011, it began production of the next-generation chip – “Elbrus-2S +” at the same technological standards – 90 nm – has significantly better performance in as many as 28 Gflops (which corresponds to approximately midway between the Intel Core 2 Duo and Intel Core i3). This breakthrough was made possible due to the presence of four additional cores embedded coprocessor designed for digital signal processing (DSP), and the two main cores, clock speed was the same 500 MHz. In fairness, we note that due to some labor intensity programming embedded DSP he did not gained much popularity, so the next generation model of it has been decided to refuse.

What happens now? Now, in 2014, the MCST launches the most advanced model – “Elbrus-4C”, made on 65nm technology and clocked at 800 MHz. Due to the presence of four cores with two megabytes of cache memory per core, it delivers an impressive 50 Gflops performance, coming close to the Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition (53 Gflops). Its power consumption is thus much more modest and is only 45 watts. Mass production has not yet begun, but already there are prototypes. And as scarce equipment is not required – thanks to the “big” enough to process technology from a variety of commonly available plants, this time is not far off.

Testing RBDoom3-BFG processor Elbrus-4C video

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