In 2015 we were talking about MCST (Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies), an unknown Russian company that was dedicated to a unique field: the manufacture of processor that they themselves compared with the Core i3 and Core i5 of the time.
Little has been known about the company since then, but their work has continued and now they have wanted to go a step further and have presented a motherboard in Mini-ITX format with its Elbrus-8CB CPU, a model with eight cores at 1, 5 GHz that aims to expand the use of these chips.
Taking (a little) the witness of the mythical Itanium
The Mini-ITX board has that processor that makes use of a VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word) architecture that Intel tried to carry out in the past with its almost mythical (and failed) Itanium (IA-64).
The proposal of the Russian company is called IcepeakITX Elbrus-8CB , and in addition to the processor it has a RAM memory configuration that can be 8 or 32 GB of DDR4-2400 memory.
In this project, the attention of pressure sensors, humidity sensors or that of a gyroscope and a GPS sensor draws the attention that make it possible to become the base of embedded and probably industrial applications.
Its connectivity, yes, is not up to the times, and it has a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (just when we began to see the popularization of PCIe 4.0) in addition to two M.2 connectors for SSD drives and four SATA connectors for storage drives that accept this type of interface. We have Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, two HDMI 2.0 ports and up to five USB 3.0 ports.
Those responsible for the development ensure that the board also has x86-64 firmware that allows code of this architecture to be executed with minimal overhead for the system, which in theory would allow using this board and its processor to install operating systems such as Windows 10 or functional Linux distributions, although at the moment there is no specific software compatibility data.
A Russian processor that will find it difficult to compete with the big boys
The development of the IcepeakITX Elbrus-8CB board is nearing completion, and it will be then that those interested in this platform can buy and experiment with it.
The Elbrus-8CB processor has 3.5 billion transistors, has a 90 W TDP, and is manufactured using 28 nanometer technology. With these data, it seems logical to think that it is difficult to compete with the latest from Intel and AMD, much more advanced in manufacturing processes and with many tables in the field of their micro architectures.
Tom’s Hardware explains that the performance is predictably much lower than the processors it wants to compete with. A good example is AMD’s EPYC family; that in the case of its modern 8-core models it achieves 2.3 TFLOPS of performance, about ten times more than those Elbrus-8CB promise that yes, they operate at 1.5 GHz compared to 3.7 – 3, 9 GHz of the EPYC.
There is another curiosity: unlike the proprietary proposals of Intel and AMD with which it intends to compete, MCST offers both the C / C ++ compiler owned by the Russian company (but not its source code), its bootloader and the source code for board schematics, design specs, and comments for that design process.
Previous models of similar plates from MSCT were around 1,000 euros, which also makes their price a barrier for many.
It therefore seems that we are facing a curious proposal not so much for its (apparently) modest performance but for managing to propose an alternative in a market absolutely dominated by Intel and AMD. Be that as it may, we must continue to be attentive to these cold processors: they may one day be able to propose a much more serious alternative in this segment.