ByteDance Has Initiated at Least Four Chip Projects

At a conference on July 20, Yang Zhenyuan, the vice president in charge of Volcano Engine and the data center at ByteDance, disclosed progress of the firm’s self-developed chips. Yang said the self-developed chips involved video codec, cloud reasoning acceleration and other scenarios, and that ByteDance was also exploring the use of RISC architecture chips in the cloud with industry suppliers. ByteDance has not developed general-use chips such as CPUs and GPUs, and the chips in development are for its own use and won’t be sold to others.

LatePost reported on July 25 that ByteDance has activated at least four chip projects, including AI chips, server chips, FPGA NIC (intelligent network card in Field Programmable Gate Array or FPGA) and RISC-V. In addition, AI chips have been taped out, and the server chips are mainly for video codec.

The AI chip processes huge amount of recommendation algorithms; the video codec chip meets the massive video processing needs of short video apps such as Douyin and TikTok; the DPU chip aims to improve the overall efficiency of the data center. According to Yang Zhenyuan, 95% of ByteDance’s business is performed in its own data center, and the DPU is designed to reasonably allocate different data processing work to CPUs or GPUs, and to take over the data center operation and maintenance tasks such as network, security, virtualization and storage from CPU to improve efficiency.

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With sufficient usage, self-developed chips can reduce costs and better control supply, while better software and hardware synergy can be achieved to improve the overall effect.

ByteDance’s chip team currently has several technical leaders, but the team size is small. In contrast, T-Head, a subsidiary of Alibaba Chip, established in 2018, currently has about 1,500 staff members, and has successively launched AI chips, ARM CPU and other products. ZEKU, an OPPO chip subsidiary that was established two years ago with work similar to ByteDance’s chipmaking, has a team of 2,000 people. ZEKU released AI chips for smartphones last year.