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Russian Company Tapes Out 16-Core Elbrus CPU: 2.0 GHz, 16 TB of RAM in 4-Way System

(Image credit: MCST)

MCST, a microprocessor developer from Russia, has demonstrated the first engineering sample of its 16-core Elbrus-16C CPU. The processor is an evolution of MCST's proprietary VLIW architecture that adds features like virtualization. The Elbrus-16C is designed primarily for desktops and servers that have to comply with Russia's governmental requirements for security and reliability. 

The MCST Elbrus-16C is based on the company's 6th-gen VLIW microarchitecture that supports hardware virtualization, but it apparently doesn't feature any instructions-per-cycle (IPC) enhancements over the 5th-gen Elbrus microarchitecture. The chip consists of 12 billion of transistors and will be fabbed with a 16nm process technology.

The system-on-chip packs 16 cores running at 2 GHz, has an eight-channel DDR4 memory controller, supports 32 PCIe Gen 3 lanes, four SATA 3.0 ports, and integrated 2.5 GbE as well as 10 GbE interfaces. The CPU can address up to 4TB of DDR4 memory, the same capacity as AMD's EPYC 7002-series processors, but the developer does not disclose which memory modules — RDIMMs or LRDIMMs — it uses. The CPU has a 110W TDP.

As far as performance is concerned, the manufacturer says that its 16-core processor can offer 1.5 FP32 TFLOPS as well as 0.75 FP64 TFLOPS. This is considerably faster than MCST's previous-gen Elbrus-8CB, which reached 576 FP32 TFLOPS and 288 FP64 TFLOPS. However, this is significantly lower than today's leading-edge CPUs that top at 2.3 FP64 TFLOPS, or GPUs that can hit 9.7 FP64 TFLOPS. 

One interesting feature of the MCST Elbrus-16C processor is its support for 4-way symmetric multiprocessor configurations, a first for the company. Since every CPU in the system supports up to 4 TB of DDR4 ECC memory, a 4-way Elbrus-16C server can carry up to 16 TB of DRAM in total, something that modern AMD EPYC platforms cannot support (as they don't support 4-socket configurations). Considering the price of DRAM, it is unlikely that Elbrus-16C-powered machines with $232,000-worth of memory ($3,224*18*4) will ever be built in more or less mass quantities. Still, at least this will be possible if someone in a Russian government agency needs to run an application with a huge dataset on a CPU designed in Moscow.  

Virtualization and 4-way SMP support will allow Russian server makers to build cloud servers based on the MCST Elbrus-16C parts over time when there are appropriate operating systems available.  

So far, MCST has managed to run its Elbrus Linux operating system on a prototype Elbrus-16C-based server. The company will evaluate samples of the CPU in the coming quarters and expects the chip to be ready for mass production by late 2021.