In a small white office building tucked between the world headquarters of Intel and Nvidia, a team of engineers is heading up one of the most ambitious and controversial microprocessor designs in Silicon Valley. When announced sometime next year, the chip aims to be as fast and powerful as anything driving the world's largest Internet routers.
Huawei Technologies, one of China's most successful electronics companies to date, is designing the chip for its own systems.
The Shenzhen-based networking giant has gathered a global team of semiconductor veterans along with the best of China's electronic engineering graduates working in its chip division, HiSilicon Technologies. The chip unit was launched in 1991, and emerged as a full division under the HiSilicon name in October 2004. To date, it has completed more than 120 chip designs and claims to have shipped 150 million chips.
The router chip is perhaps the most sophisticated and ambitious project in the brief history of the secretive HiSilicon group. EE Times Confidential tracked down the ex-Cisco microprocessor architect heading the HiSilicon router chip design team. His is a story that a growing number of U.S. engineers are experiencing as they sign on with Chinese electronics companies.
Click here to read the full story in the May edition of EE Times Confidential.
FYI, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Juniper all design their own silicon for high end routers in Silicon Valley. Huawei is the latest to join this elite crowd. And HiSilicon does many, many other chips exclusively for use in its own wired and and wireless comms systems.
What HiSilicon (or Huawei) want to do can be possible to achieve as a short-term goal, because they have a money and manpower to do it, if they want to own their unique from OS to hardware. Many of companies in a history tried to do that. I know from a history that won’t last long.
As a unit’s complexity is getting bigger, it is not possible to do that alone. As money moves to other area, they will abandon as most, if not all, of other companies did. I will step aside and watch how far they can push further.
Custom chip design is not limited to CPU especially in the telecom equipment market. For example Huaweii is known for its custom Signal Processing chips for optical receivers instead of depending on the optical suppliers like Core Optics or JDSU. Having a chip division with excelent engineers makes all the sense in this industry.
A little confusing, are they doing custom cpus for networking or making chips with branded cpus? There have been too many companies trying to come up with a cpu design of their own but seldom with enough justification to why they need it.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.