Russia’s CPU Substitution Plan Hits a Snag
Leading CPU makers AMD and Intel left the Russian market after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, and right now it is not easy for Russian PC makers to obtain the chips they need.
There are several Russian companies that design their own processors, but those chips are made by TSMC, and Taiwan no longer allows their export to Russia. As a result, the country cannot replace foreign CPUs with its own, reports Kommersant business daily.
Russian makers of PCs and servers this year reportedly supplied just 15,000 PCs and 8,000 servers based on Elbrus and Baikal processors designed in Russia and then fabbed in Taiwan, according to Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media.
“We would have a lot more [PCs and servers based on Russian CPUs] this year if those batches of Russian processors, Elbrus, Baikals, which were ordered and produced, were shipped,” said Maksut Shadayev, the head of the ministry. “Intellectual property and all documentation are Russian, but there are no production facilities in Russia that could produce those CPUs, which is why production was ordered in other countries.”
The most advanced fab in Russia can produce chips on a 90nm node, whereas MCST’s most sophisticated CPUs were made by TSMC on its 16nm fabrication process.
Due to restrictions imposed on high-tech exports to Russia by the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union, leading Taiwanese companies were among the first to cease working with Russia after the country started a war against Ukraine several months ago.
In June, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) officially issued its list of high-tech products that are barred from shipping to Russia and Belarus in a bid to not allow the countries to use advanced technology for military purposes. In particular, Taiwan authorities banned exports of processors that have performance of over 5 GFLOPS, operate at 25 MHz or higher, feature an external interconnection with a data transfer rate of 2.5 MB/s or over, and/or have an ALU that is wider than 32 bits. Essentially, Taiwan does not allow exports of advanced processors to Russia, so TSMC cannot ship the chips was contracted to produce for the country. And TSMC isn’t the only company that can’t or won’t ship chips to Russia.
“Foreign manufacturers that produce processors based on blueprints of Russian developers refused to fulfill orders in 2022, including shipping already produced chips,” said Shadayev, reports RBC.