Chinese media outlet Caixin reported on Monday that Alibaba‘s ARM-based server chip, which has been developing since 2019, has finished tapeout in the middle of the year and may be released in the near future, according to several sources. This means that Alibaba Group has become another Chinese tech company to develop its own server CPU (central processing unit) after Huawei.
The chip is built using a 5nm process, which is currently the most advanced server chip in that regard. A source close to Alibaba Cloud said that Alibaba may release this chip at the Apsara Conference held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, from October 19-22. The Apsara Conference is Alibaba Cloud’s annual developers conference.
According to Chinese media outlet 36Kr, Alibaba‘s chip manufacturing has been quite high-profile. In 2018, Alibaba wholly acquired C-SKY Microsystems, and integrated it with the self-developed chip business of DAMO Academy to become the later chip company T-Head (Pingtouge Semiconductor). The company has made rapid progress, releasing its first official AI inference chip “Hanguang 800” in 2019, and soon announcing that it has entered mass production. Since 2020, the “Hanguang 800” has been deployed in Alibaba‘s super data centers on a large scale.
In addition to self-research, Alibaba also made major layout through investment. Previously, Alibaba had already invested in enterprises including Cambricon and DeePhi Technology Co., Ltd. In October this year, Alibaba and Baidu formally took a strategic stake in Phytium Technology Co., Ltd., which is a Chinese CPU developer, also based on ARM architecture.
After more than ten years of development, Alibaba Cloud has established a huge software ecosystem. The mass production of the ARM-based chip would fit right into the Alibaba software ecosystem to further reduce costs and increase efficiency.
At present, the global chip market is mainly divided into several camps, among which Intel occupies nearly 90% of the X86 camp, while the ARM camp has a number of rising stars catching up, such as Huawei’s Kunpeng chips, Amazon’s AWS Graviton, and IBM’s Power processors.