August 8, 2022
Alibaba unveils custom ARM-based server chip Yitian 710 for cloud computing data centers

Chinese tech giant Alibaba said on Tuesday that it has developed a processor that will be used to power the servers in its data centers. The development marks the latest foray into semiconductors for the company, mirroring moves by other global cloud computing players, while harmonizing with the Chinese government’s priorities to boost the country’s chip sector.

Developed by T-head, Alibaba’s in-house semiconductor unit, the chip – the Yitian 710 – is based on architecture from UK-based Arm, and will not be available for commercial use outside Alibaba.

According to research firm Gartner, Alibaba is the largest cloud computing provider in China by market share and the third largest globally.

Its rivals in this area have also released their own server chips. Huawei and Amazon rely on their respective Kunpeng and Graviton chips to power their cloud computing infrastructure.

Alibaba also said it has an evolving proprietary line of servers called Panjiu, and said it would make the source code for its Juanti series of IP cores – based on the RISC-V open source architecture – available to the public. Alibaba unveiled Xuanti in 2019.

China’s government has long urged the industry to invest in the domestic chip sector, which lags behind global counterparts.

The country relies on foreign companies for most of its advanced semiconductors, a vulnerability exposed when US sanctions against Huawei crippled that company’s booming smartphone business.

In addition to Alibaba, search giant Baidu, phone maker Xiaomi and several Chinese automotive and appliance companies have started investing in chips.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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