OpenBLAS Deciding Whether To Drop Support For Russia's Elbrus CPUs

Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software on 3 March 2022 at 09:00 AM EST. 543 Comments
OpenBLAS recently added support for Russia's Elbrus E2000 processors, however, the OpenBLAS developers are now debating whether to drop support for these Russian domestically-produced CPUs given Russia's invasion into Ukraine.

There was a call for OpenBLAS to remove support for Russian Elbrus processors considering that Intel and AMD have also suspended their CPU sales to Russia. With this open-source BLAS and LAPACK API implementation providing optimized linear algebra kernels that could be used for military functions, developers are deciding whether they should remove the Elbrus code.

The RFC to remove the Elbrus code notes, "The Elbrus processor is a so-called homegrown processor, with the primary use case of circumventing sanctions such as above. The processor is / will be used in Russian military equipment, intelligence service, and other branches of the Russian government. Linear algebra operations provided by OpenBLAS can be and are used within weapons (eg: machine learning, pattern recognition, computer vision), such as those used by the Russian military, either now or in the future."

However, due to the very nature of open-source and the code already being out there, it would ultimately have likely little impact... Russian stakeholders could continue using the older OpenBLAS release with the Elbrus support or simply maintain their own fork with this code maintained.

This Elbrus code for OpenBLAS has also already existed within the ALTLinux distribution and isn't too optimized. Removing Elbrus support from OpenBLAS would mostly be a political statement against Russia's military aggression into Ukraine.

Those commenting so far on the ticket have been in favor of removing the Elbrus code from OpenBLAS to at least serve as a public statement against Russia's military aggression and in support for the people of Ukraine. This proposed OpenBLAS code removal is the first we've seen of any open-source project looking to drop support for the Russian CPU architecture. Elbrus CPUs aren't nearly as fast as modern AMD, Intel, and Arm processors but is their years-long effort on producing domestic CPUs from desktops to workstations and servers.
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