Alibaba Bets on RISC-V and Custom AI Chips in an Attempt to Differentiate and Dictate Its Future

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By Lian Jye Su | 4Q 2019 | IN-5616


Xuantie and Hanguang, Alibaba's Double Blade in Chipset


In its attempt to differentiate from the fierce competition of the public cloud market and reduce its reliance on Western supply, 2019 is shaping up to be a watershed year for Alibaba. In July 2019, Alibaba unveiled its first Reduced Instruction Set Computer Five (RISC-V) Computing Processing Unit (CPU), Xuantie 910, at the Alibaba Cloud Summit in Shanghai, China. This was immediately followed by the launch of Hanguang 800, an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) for cloud Artificial Intelligence (AI) inference workload in September 2019 at the Apsara Conference 2019 in Hangzhou, China.

Xuantie 910 is a 16-core, 2.5 GHz CPU based on a 12 nm process node and boosts maximum single core performance up to 7.1 CoreMark/MHz. Alibaba introduces more than 50 instructions to Xuantie’s RISC-V instruction set to enhance the processor's arithmetic operations, memory access, and multicore capabilities. The technical specification for Hanguang, however, is thin. Alibaba claims that its computational efficiency is at 500 images per …

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