Alibaba reveals custom ARM-based chip for data centres

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Alibaba reveals custom ARM-based chip for data centres

Chinese tech giant Alibaba said on Tuesday it has developed a processor that will be used to power servers in its data centres.

The development marks the latest foray into semiconductors for the company, mirroring moves from other global cloud computing players while also dovetailing with Chinese government's priorities to boost the nation's chip sector.

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

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

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

Alibaba also said it has a developed proprietary line of servers, called Panjiu, and added that it will make the source code for its Xuantie series of IP cores — based on the RISC-V open source architecture — available to the public. Alibaba unveiled the Xuantie in 2019.

China's government has long urged industry to invest in the domestic chip sector, which remains behind that of global counterparts.

The country remains reliant on overseas companies for much of its advanced semiconductors, a vulnerability brought forth when US sanctions against Huawei crippled that company's booming smartphone business.

In addition to Alibaba, search giant Baidu, phone maker Xiaomi, and a number of Chinese automotive and appliance companies have begun investing in chips.

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Uttaresh.V)

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