Tuesday, October 19th 2021

Alibaba Goes Anti-x86: Open-Source RISC-V and 128-Core Arm Server Processors on the Horizon

With the x86 architecture, large hyperscale cloud providers have been experiencing all sorts of troubles, from high power consumption to the high pricing structure of these processors. Companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS) build their processors based on 3rd party instruction set architecture designs. Today, Alibaba, the Chinese giant, has announced the launch of two processors made in-house to serve everything from edge to central server processing. First in line is the RISC-V-based Xuantie series of processors, which can run anything from AliOS, FreeRTOS, RT-Thread, Linux, Android, etc., to other operating systems as well. These processors are open-source, capable of modest processing capabilities, and designed as IPs that anyone can use. You can check them out on T-Head GitHub repositories here.

The other thing that Alibaba announced is the development of a 128-core custom processor based on the Arm architecture. Called Yitian 710 server SoC, TSMC manufactures it on the company on 5 nm semiconductor node. So far, Alibaba didn't reveal any details about the SoC and what Arm cores are used. However, this signifies that the company seeks technology independence from outside sources and wants to take it all in-house. With custom RISC-V processors for lower-power tasks and custom Arm server CPUs, the whole infrastructure is covered. It is just a matter of time before Alibaba starts to replace x86 makers in full. However, given the significant number of chips that the company needs, it may not happen at any sooner date.
Sources: CnTechPost (Arm CPU), Pandaily (RISC-V CPUs)
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15 Comments on Alibaba Goes Anti-x86: Open-Source RISC-V and 128-Core Arm Server Processors on the Horizon

#1
R0H1T
AleksandarKHowever, this signifies that the company seeks technology independence from outside sources and wants to take it all in-house.
Quite the contradiction wouldn't you say?
AleksandarKThe other thing that Alibaba announced is the development of a 128-core custom processor based on the Arm architecture.
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#2
AleksandarK
R0H1TQuite the contradiction wouldn't you say?
They can license Arm ISA at any time.
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#3
R0H1T
They probably already do but ARM won't give Alibaba, or CCP, any tech independence they're searching for!

Of course with ARM China under their thumbs they likely won't have to :slap:
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#4
zlobby
Huawei already tried that. Needless to say, they dropped it quickly.
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#5
Solid State Soul ( SSS )
With how high power requirements is needed to progress x86 further, there is no question it'll be replaced with ARM and RISC V, especially since Apple have adapted ARM, the rest of the industry feels like it should follow Apple footsteps.
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#6
sepheronx
zlobbyHuawei already tried that. Needless to say, they dropped it quickly.
Doesn't mean Alibaba cant. I dont understand this mindset tbh. Because 1 company failed, doesnt mean another will. At that, China has the capabilities to do so since they have both experience in designing and fabricating semiconductors.
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#7
zlobby
sepheronxDoesn't mean Alibaba cant. I dont understand this mindset tbh. Because 1 company failed, doesnt mean another will. At that, China has the capabilities to do so since they have both experience in designing and fabricating semiconductors.
There is no mindset here. Huawei are 100% backed by the Chinese govt. They have entire cities devoted to R&D. And if they don't see the way forward with ARM, I honestly don't know.
Best of luck to Alibaba, though. Jack is not that friendly with his govt. these days, so who knows?
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#8
seth1911
RISC-V would be interessting.

Fuck this x86 Duopol, like Intel vs AMD :peace:


Yeah Via Franchise alias Xiaoxin, but only on Chinese Market:mad:
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#9
XiGMAKiD
Unlike open source software that could be used immediately by practically everyone open source ISA could be really useful only to select individuals
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#10
dragontamer5788
R0H1TQuite the contradiction wouldn't you say?
semianalysis.com/the-semiconductor-heist-of-the-century-arm-china-has-gone-completely-rogue-operating-as-an-independent-company-with-their-own-ip/

ARM China has gone rogue. Stole a bunch of IP and gone dark. ARM cut them off before ARM-China stole the most modern stuff.

EDIT: Apparently there are a bunch of corrections to the above article. Hmmm, I remember reading it a few weeks ago, but now I have to review again. www.extremetech.com/computing/326617-arm-refutes-accusations-of-ip-theft-by-its-arm-china-subsidiary

For now, ARM looks like its solidly a decent core for the Chinese market, being largely controlled by a Chinese-controlled company that is in an adversarial relationship with the original ARM-company.
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#11
Aquinus
Resident Wat-man
seth1911Fuck this x86 Duopol, like Intel vs AMD :peace:
Yeah, but we all know the real issue that is preventing adoption and that is if it can run Crysis.
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#12
dragontamer5788
Solid State Soul ( SSS )With how high power requirements is needed to progress x86 further, there is no question it'll be replaced with ARM and RISC V, especially since Apple have adapted ARM, the rest of the industry feels like it should follow Apple footsteps.
Apple's chip is just ARM's instruction set. The fundamental design to the core itself is an Apple-only secret.

ARM cores, such as Neoverse N1, are making incredible strides forward. But they're not Apple's chip by a long shot.
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#13
Flanker
Everyone and their dogs are making their ARM processors these days
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#14
big_glasses
seth1911RISC-V would be interessting.

Fuck this x86 Duopol, like Intel vs AMD :peace:


Yeah Via Franchise alias Xiaoxin, but only on Chinese Market:mad:
I wouldn't call the server market a x86 duopol.

Amazon have already gone ahead with their graviton processors, MS was allegedly working on ARM CPU's last year and you have the Ampere Computing CPU's (Ampere Altra).
and don't forget that you can still get IBM Power servers if needed also
It is exciting with new tries on RISC-V, and I hope it goes well and they push upstream
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#15
TheinsanegamerN
Solid State Soul ( SSS )With how high power requirements is needed to progress x86 further, there is no question it'll be replaced with ARM and RISC V, especially since Apple have adapted ARM, the rest of the industry feels like it should follow Apple footsteps.
And why, in your mind, do you think ARM and RISC V can approach or exceede x86 IPC without also drawing tons of power. You bring up apple, and funny enough the M1 "beat" AMD and intel mobile parts whiel drawing 25W of power, compared to 15-18w from their competition, while using the 5nm node. All that proved was to approach x86 performance ARM is no more efficient.
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