SAN JOSE, Calif. – Huawei Technologies, China's answer to Cisco Systems, is seeking a chief technology officer for its processor technology group that spends several hundred million dollars a year in chips. One of the silicon guru's first assignments will be to help the company cut the broad portfolio of chips it uses down to two or three architectures.
Huawei makes everything from network routers, switches and wireless base stations to computer servers and cellphone handsets. Its products use virtually every architecture available including ARM, Ceva, Mips, PowerPC, Tensilica and x86.
Ironically, one of the few architectures Huawei does not use is China's homegrown Longsoon processor also known as the Godson family.
"It is just a processor core--an engine that lacks the full set of peripherals we need in networking," said the head of Huawei's processor group who goes by the English name of Ed Moon. "Maybe Huawei will use it in the future," he said.
The new CTO could help Huawei whittle down its list of microprocessor
vendors and exert more influence over the handful with which it chooses
Overall, "the CPU market is relatively small but has a lot of players," said Sunrise Yuan, an expert in Huawei's corporate CTO office on an annual trip through Silicon Valley from the company's headquarters in Shenzhen. "We expect there will be fewer microprocessor vendors in the future, so we need to choose which ones we will work with and forge close ties with them." he said.
The company is seeking a well known microprocessor specialist with experience in networking and telecom and ties to top execs in semiconductor companies including Freescale, Intel and Texas Instruments. The new CTO would help the company forge a strategy and road map for its processor requirements and get its vendors to hear and respond to them.
The CTO would collaborate with a separate Huawei group that develops high-end network processor ASICs in house for use in the company's own systems. The executive would help ensure the merchant and in-house silicon teams have complimentary strategies.
Like its archrivals Cisco and Juniper Networks, Huawei has developed custom ASICs to drive its high end systems for the last several years. It started working with IBM as its foundry and now also uses TSMC for its latest 45nm designs.
Huawei hopes to compete head-to-head with Cisco, long known as one of the world's top ASIC designers. Cisco is expected to debut systems in 2011 using a custom 200 Gbit/second ASIC called Pita that uses as many as 400 cores.
Like Huawei, Cisco has also been dogged by fragmentation in its supply base, including microprocessors. Cisco's supply chain managers and engineering teams sparred for some time over an effort to reduce the number of architectures it employs.
The supply chain issue is a by-product of Huawei's rapid growth. The company reaped about $15 billion in revenues in the first half of 2010 and recorded some of its highest profit margins to date. It reported annual revenues of $21 billion in 2009.
The company recently hired Alan Gatherer, a divisional CTO at Texas Instruments to be its CTO for baseband SoCs.