Chinese internet giant Alibaba has unveiled its first server chip based on ARM architecture at the Apsara Conference on October 19, marking the attempt of another major company to challenge Intel’s architecture, joining Amazon and Huawei.
The Apsara Conference is Alibaba Cloud’s annual developers conference. At the 2021 conference site, Zhang Jianfeng, President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, held up a chip the size of a mobile phone battery, introducing it as the CPU chip self-developed by Alibaba Pingtou Ge called “Yitian 710.”
According to Chinese media outlet AI Caijing, the chip adopts the 5nm manufacturing process, which is the first server chip in the industry to adopt this process. Previously, the most advanced server chip adopted the 7nm manufacturing process.
Zhang acknowledged that “Yitian710” is the first CPU with ARM v9 architecture, which contains 128-core. Assessed on a basis of relevant standards, “Yitian 710” scores 440, exceeding the industry benchmark by 20%, and increases the energy efficiency ratio by more than 50%.
Zhang also said that the “Yitian 710” is not for sale and is mainly for Alibaba Cloud’s use, and that it will be deployed in Alibaba Cloud Data Center to gradually serve cloud business. “This is also based on Alibaba Cloud’s deep-rooted business strategy and is to meet the diverse computing needs of customers,” Zhang said. In the future, Alibaba will continue to cooperate closely with Intel, Nvidia, AMD, ARM and other partners.
Previously, in 2019, Alibaba launched an AI inference chip “Hanguang 800.” Internet companies including Baidu have also launched special chips for AI. The “Yitian 710” launched this time by Alibaba is not a special chip, but a general CPU, which is more complicated to develop.
According to AI Caijing, in the past, Intel was the overwhelming champion in the server chip market, monopolizing over 90% of the global market. The mainstream servers in the market were all based on Intel’s X86 architecture. However, in recent years, Intel’s chip technology progress is comparatively limited, and several companies are challenging its position. Previously, HP, Marvell, Qualcomm and other manufacturers have tried to promote chips based on ARM architecture but eventually failed because the software ecosystem around X86 has been quite mature.
The major changes were made by cloud technology giants Amazon and Huawei. In 2018, Amazon launched its self-developed server chip Amazon Graviton based on ARM architecture for the first time and launched Amazon Graviton 2 in 2020. Huawei launched “Kunpeng” chips in 2019. These products are popular in the industry. ARM CPU has unique advantages over X86 architecture in certain areas, such as video processing. With the release of “Yitian 710,” another technology giant – Alibaba – will promote the further progression of the chip industry.
In addition to “Yitian 710,” Alibaba also announced its plan to open the source code of the RISC-V series processor. Zhang Jianfeng disclosed at the conference site that the shipment of Xuantie series processors has exceeded 2.5 billion.