The chip – the Yitian 710 – was developed by Alibaba’s in-house semiconductor unit, known as as PingTouGe or T-Head is based on processor architecture from ARM Ltd. and is due to be implemented in a 5nm manufacturing process technology. Alibaba said the chip would be used internally in the near future and not made available for commercial use outside of Alibaba, at least for now. The chip has been in design since 2019 and the process concluded in mid-2021.
Alibaba did not disclose who would make the processor. The only companies capable of manufacturing 5nm chips are Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Samsung Electronics Co. The Arm-based server chip is the third semiconductor introduced by the e-commerce giant since 2019, following an artificial intelligence chip as well as one used for internet-of-things.
However, it is notable that Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies was targeted by the US and denied access leading-edge foundry services, disrupting the company’s progress in smartphones. Similarly China’s largest domestic foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) has been denied access to such things as extreme ultraviolet lithography, which would allow it to develop sub-10nm manufacturing process technology (see ASML delays Chinese delivery of EUV lithography tool).
In addition, the provenance of the ARM intellectual property could come into doubt as ARM China, which is responsible for the distribution of that IP and the collection of royalties, is the subject of a dispute between ARM and other shareholders in the subsidiary and the subsidiary itself (see ARM’s China struggle threatens $40bn Nvidia deal).
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