The Next Big Tech War Front: RISC-V

(MENAFN- Asia Times) Alibaba's share price dropped nearly 10% on November 17 on the news it has canceled the spin-off and initial public offering (IPO) of its cloud computing division, marking the latest market tremor to hit China's sanctioned tech industry.

Alibaba said the cancellation was driven by the disruption caused by US bans on China's access to advanced proprietary semiconductors made by Arm, Intel, AMD and Nvidia.

At the same time, US sanctions are accelerating China's development of advanced chips using the RISC-V open standard design architecture, giving rise to US congress calls to extend the China tech bans to RISC-V.

RISC-V is an open standard instruction set architecture based on Reduced Instruction Set Computer design principles. It is a free, non-proprietary platform for the development of integrated circuit (IC) processors.

As an alternative to Arm, Intel, AMD and Nvidia, RISC-V is spurring the interest of not only China but also the EU and smaller companies and chip designers.

A China RISC-V Alliance was established in 2018 to create a complete open-source computing ecosystem by 2030.

The RISC concept was conceived at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010. The RISC-V Foundation was established in 2015 to support and manage the open-source technology, with the Institute of Computing Technologies of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as one of its founders.

Other founding members include Google, Qualcomm, Western Digital, Hitachi and Samsung while other Chinese members include Huawei, ZTE, Tencent and Alibaba Cloud. The association currently has more than 300 corporate, academic and other institutional members around the world.

In 2020, the Foundation was incorporated in Switzerland as the RISC-V International Association, moving out of the United States to avoid potential disruption caused by then-president Donald Trump's anti-China trade policies.

On October 31, 2023, Alibaba Cloud announced a RISC-V controller chip for enterprise solid state drives (SSDs) at its annual Aspara technology conference in Hangzhou, where the company is headquartered.

The Next Big Tech War Front: RISC-V Image

Alibaba is banking on RISC-V. Image: Asia Times Files / Agencies

The device was developed by Alibaba's wholly-owned IC design subsidiary T-Head. It will be used in Alibaba Cloud's data centers for artificial intelligence (AI) training, big data analytics and other applications.

T-Head develops application-specific ICs for AI, cloud computing, industrial, financial, consumer electronics and other applications. It has also designed an internet of things (IoT) processor based on RISC-V.

Alibaba Cloud has announced the development of new data center servers with improved computational capabilities and energy efficiency. They should help it compete with Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Alphabet's Google Cloud Platform and, in China, Tencent, Baidu and Huawei.

At the RISC-V Summit North America 2023 held in Santa Clara, California, on November 7 and 8, Alibaba's director of AI-generated content (AIGC) David Chen presented what he claimed was the first successful deployment of a RISC-V server cluster in the cloud.


Asia Times

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