Intel Hires Elbrus Microprocessor Design Team

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-05-24
Intel has picked up several design teams from Elbrus MCST, the legendary microprocessor design house that at one time set its sights on the Itanium processor.

Intel Corp. officials on Monday confirmed reports in Russian-language newspapers that the American chip giant had hired about 500 engineers and related staff from the Elbrus MCST, a state-sponsored design house in Russia formerly known as the Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies.

Some of the engineers will be hired away from Unipro, a related company. The new hires include Boris Babayan, Alexander Kim and Ivan Bolozov, said to be the architects of the E2K processor, a failed "Itanium-killer."

"Its some Java stuff, some compiler stuff, some graphics stuff–its a big team," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said Monday.

Intels agreement includes a license to whatever intellectual property Elbrus produced, Mulloy said, which would also include work done on the E2K.

Nestled deep inside Russia, the Elbrus team set lofty goals for itself that apparently never panned out, including a 1999 claim that it would develop a processor to topple Intels 64-bit McKinley core, later rebranded as the Itanium.

But Elbrus designers never publicly attended any American microprocessor conferences or seminars, and the E2K processor never apparently taped out.

In 2002, Elbrus chief executive Evgeny Babayan told ExtremeTech that the Elbrus chip could tape out later that year at just 400-MHz on a 0.18-micron process, but a successor, the "E2K," could scale to 1.2-GHz by 2004 if everything went as planned.

Boris Babayan and the other designers are apparently still at work refining the 64-bit chip, industry sources said.

Sun says its UltraSPARC IV processor line isnt dead yet. Click here to read more.

In March 2004, however, Elbrus MCST said it had begun sampling the MCST R-500, a SPARC-compatible chip clocked at 450-500MHz. Intel already has a patent cross-license with Sun Microsystems Inc., however, the designer of the SPARC line.

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