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Russia cobbles together supercomputing platform to wean off foreign suppliers

New RSK Tornado system will help Russia port HPC apps to homegrown CPUs

Russia is adapting to a world where it no longer has access to many technologies abroad with the development of a new supercomputer platform that can use foreign x86 processors such as Intel's in combination with the country's homegrown Elbrus processors.

The new supercomputer reference system, dubbed "RSK Tornado," was developed on behalf of the Russian government by HPC system integrator RSC Group, according to an English translation of a Russian-language press release published March 30.

RSC said it created RSK Tornado as a "unified interoperable" platform to "accelerate the pace of important substitution" for HPC systems, data processing centers and data storage systems in Russia.

In other words, the HPC system architecture is meant to help Russia quickly adjust to the fact that major chip companies such as Intel, AMD and TSMC — plus several other technology vendors, like Dell and Lenovo — have suspended product shipments to the country as a result of sanctions by the US and other countries in reaction to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

RSK Tornado supports up to 104 servers in a rack, with the idea being to support foreign x86 processors (should they come available) as well as Russia's Elbrus processors, which debuted in 2015.

The hope appears to be the ability for Russian developers to port HPC, AI and big data applications from x86 architectures to the Elbrus architecture, which, in theory, will make it easier for Russia to rely on its own supply chain and better cope with continued sanctions from abroad.

RSK Tornado systems software is RSC proprietary and is currently used to orchestrate supercomputer resources at the Interdepartmental Supercomputer Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg Polytechnic University and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research.

RSC claims to have also developed its own liquid-cooling system for supercomputers and data storage systems, the latter of which can use Elbrus CPUs too.

These capabilities, RSC claimed, have allowed it to "take leading positions in the world in terms of energy efficiency, performance and compactness." As evidence, RSC pointed to the fact that it has four supercomputers on the IO 500 list, which ranks the world's fastest storage systems. ®


As for whether Russian entities will be happy with Elbrus-based servers is a big question, and there are already some doubts that such processors can meet the needs of highly demanding applications. In December, Russian-language site reported (Tom's version in English) that SberInfra, the technology division of Russia’s biggest bank Sber, found Elbrus processors were inadequate for multiple workloads due to “insufficient memory, slow memory, few cores [and] low frequency.”

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