China loads up on chip technology with new ARM license

ARM has licensed its ARMv8-A architecture to Huaxintong Semiconductor Technology, a joint venture between China's Guizhou province and Qualcomm

China already has the world's fastest computer with its homegrown chip, but the country hasn't stopped loading up on technology to make more of its own chips.

ARM announced Tuesday it has licensed the ARMv8-A architecture to Huaxintong Semiconductor Technology, a joint venture between China's Guizhou province and a subsidiary of Qualcomm.

The Chinese company will make ARM-based chipsets for servers in data centers. The small Guizhou province is considered a big data hub, and the province hosts 2.5 million servers, including some used by China's top telecom companies.

It's not clear whether the server chipsets will be based on Qualcomm technology, which holds a minority stake in the joint venture. Huaxintong Semiconductor Technology is licensing Qualcomm technology and intellectual property, but can design its own custom chips, a Qualcomm spokeswoman said.

Beyond ARM, Chinese companies have access to other chip architectures. Suzhou PowerCore Technology is making chips based on Power architecture for the Chinese server market. AMD is licensing its server chip technology to Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment, a joint venture between AMD and a consortium of Chinese companies.

The China server market is exploding, and the demand for data center equipment is growing. Companies like Baidu and Tencent are building mega data centers, much like Google and Facebook in the U.S. The explosion of data and cloud-based services has increased the demand for networking, storage, and server equipment.

China is a world power, and is building a strong IT industry to support itself, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

The country wants to invest in technology to drive economic growth. In addition to building their own cloud and telecom infrastructures, making homegrown chips keeps factories busy and workers occupied.

"They are trying to build their own semiconductor industry so that they don't rely on anyone else," McGregor said. "And they are trying to break the Intel monopoly."

The mass of data centers coming online has made China a major battleground for server chip architectures, and IBM, ARM, and AMD are looking to take some market share from Intel, which dominates the server market in China. Intel has navigated China's politics through partnerships and investments but has kept its intellectual property close to its chest.

"They will give them a black box, but they won't let China mess with the architecture," McGregor said.

China decided 15 years ago to build homegrown processors for PCs, servers, and supercomputers. The company initially relied on MIPS architecture, but now has access to a wide range of architectures.

The country's latest chip is now powering the world's fastest computer, called Sunway TaihuLight at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, China. But the architecture behind the chip remains a secret.

China is still evolving its IT infrastructure and lagging on chip development, McGregor said. The licensing of CPU architectures from Western companies helps companies experiment with new designs, but also builds worker skills so the country can ultimately build viable homegrown chips.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?