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Alibaba unveils China’s most advanced chips for servers based on advanced 5-nanometer technology, marking a milestone in China’s pursuit of semiconductor self-sufficiency. The latest chip is based on microarchitecture provided by SoftBank Group Corp. owned Arm Ltd.
Alibaba during its annual cloud summit in Hangzhou said it will use the chip in its own data centers in the future and will not be sold commercially at least for now.
Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence and head of Alibaba’s research arm Damo Academy said, “Customizing our own server chips is consistent with our ongoing efforts toward boosting our computing capabilities with better performance and improved energy efficiency. We plan to use the chips to support current and future businesses across the Alibaba Group ecosystem.”
The demand for cloud services has increased immensely especially during the pandemic crisis resulting in tech giants across the world seeking more powerful and energy-efficient semiconductors. With the development of the latest chip, which happens to be the most advanced by a Chinese firm, Amazon joins global rivals such as Amazon.com Inc. and Google who are gradually replacing chips made by traditional chipmakers such as Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. known to produce custom-designed products for their data centers and workloads.
The current development suggests China is reaping the fruits of its government policies which prioritized tech self-sufficiency, setting aside billions in government funding and offering a wide range of policy support to help local firms overcome U.S. sanctions on the industry.
The latest chip developed by Alibaba is called Yitian 70, 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.
China is not yet self-reliant when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing capabilities. This means Alibaba will have to outsource production, the company has not yet disclosed its manufacturing partner. Currently, there are only two companies capable of mass-producing 5 nm chips, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.
Recently Apple has come up with its M1 chip for its latest iPhone and Macs.