Alibaba’s Damo Academy plans to launch latest version of its XuanTie RISC-V processor this year

Alibaba’s Damo Academy plans to launch latest version of its XuanTie RISC-V processor this year

Alibaba’s Damo Academy plans to launch latest version of its XuanTie RISC-V processor this year

Damo Academy, Alibaba Group Holding’s research arm, expects to launch the next-generation of its XuanTie series of RISC-V processors – the C930 – this year, in the latest effort to counter the impact of tighter US trade restrictions on exports of advanced chip technologies to China.

Damo Academy showcased the next iteration of its XuanTie RISC-V processors – used in 5G communications, robotics, and financial services among other things – at the XuanTie Partner Conference last week.

Damo has launched a series of XuanTie processors based on RISC-V architecture, including the C910 in 2019, and the C920 last year. At the conference, it also unveiled a new open-source laptop called Ruyi Book, also based on RISC-V architecture. Alibaba also owns the Post.

Since the launch of the XuanTie C910, shipments of the XuanTie series of chips have exceeded 4 billion units, according to Damo.

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Zhang Jianfeng, president of Damo Academy, said that applications backed by RISC-V are about to “enter a rapid growth phase” with a surge in demand for computing power, according to a statement.

“Damo Academy will continue to increase investments in RISC-V research and development, continue to build the RISC-V ecosystem, and promote upstream and downstream collaboration in the industry,” said Zhang.

Demand for high-end semiconductors in China used in electric vehicles, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence applications is growing amid tighter US restrictions on technology exports to China. Domestic tech giants such as Alibaba, Tencent Holdings and Huawei Technologies are all pushing ahead with development of in-house chips.

Open-source RISC-V has become a potential alternative to Intel X86 and Arm architectures, opening up one avenue for Chinese companies to escape the debilitating effects of US sanctions, which Washington has imposed due to national security considerations.

According to RISC-V International’s official website, 13 out of the 25 RISC-V International premier members are from China, including Alibaba Cloud, Huawei, ZTE, as well as the state-sponsored Beijing Institute of Open Source Chip. Other premier members include Google, Intel, Qualcomm and Seagate.

Alibaba plans to build a RISC-V ecosystem in China and Damo Academy unveiled the “Wujian Alliance” to further accelerate the commercialisation of RISC-V innovations at the XuanTie Conference.

China’s Nuclei Studio, America’s Synopsys and the UK’s Imagination Technologies have joined the “Wujian Alliance”. Membership allows companies to share intellectual property and system-on-a-chip designs, operating systems and software adaptations, according to Damo Academy.

RISC-V is an open-standard instruction set architecture (ISA), based on established reduced instruction set computer principles. Research on ISA design was first published by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley in 2010, and it later became available to chip developers to configure and customise designs, under the Switzerland-based non-profit RISC-V International in 2015.

While the Intel X86 and Arm architectures remain dominant, corresponding to the Microsoft Windows and Google Android operating systems respectively, RISC-V architecture is gaining popularity.

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