Thursday, September 27, 2018

For strategic technological sovereignty as well as national security, Russia needs at least a few domestically-designed microprocessors

Russia has been historically weak in semiconductors generally and microprocessors in particular [though the situation in software is somewhat better]. Near-total dependence on America's Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, etc., is not good at all for the nation. In the long term, Russia needs at least one decent-sized functional foundry inside its borders which both churns out domestically-designed chips at a medium pace, and also manufactures chips with classified / secret capabilities [you can't ask Samsung or TSMC to build these]. In the short term though, Russia urgently needs a fabless chip designer that designs chips based on both x86 and ARM architectures [possibly one SPARC and one MIPS chip too].

The reasons for this are both development of domestic semiconductor industry and also national security. I also mention, what I call "strategic technological sovereignty" as another important reason. As is stopping and possibly reversing brain drain of Russian talent to the West. For government needs as well as mission-critical tasks, only Russia's self-designed processors should be used, and not Intel's or AMD's.

China's Huawei's HiSilicon is such an excellent example of what Russia needs. It designs chips based on standard ARM architectures, and doesn't alter these designs [unlike Qualcomm and Samsung]. This keeps things easy and simple and manageable. China doesn't have to depend on Qualcomm for SoCs for mobile phones. Russia too needs a domestic chip designer. Sufficient domestic demand can be artificially created for this company by making sure that all government computers, smartphones, location devices, laptops, tablets, servers, etc., use chips designed by this company. Like a mutual funds tracks an index, different Russian chips should be pegged to specific Western chips [as if these Western chips were targets to be achieved or beaten], and attempt should be made to at least equal the Western chips in terms of price, durability/quality/reliability and specifications. Over time, the Russian public can be encouraged / nudged to prefer domestic chips rather than US-designed ones, particularly when Russian designs become broadly equivalent or superior to their Western brethren.

Update [9-Oct-18]: I just read this very long and fascinating article on Bloomberg, and realized how well-timed my blog post was. This article strongly reinforces the idea that Russia needs its own chips, its own code, and its own men working on its own machines. No one else can be trusted.

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