SAN JOSE, Calif. – China government officials kicked off a program last month that aims to define a national processor architecture. If the initiative is successful, the processor could become a requirement for use in any projects seeking government funding such as purchases of computers or smartphones.
At least five existing processor architectures are up for consideration as the basis of the standard. The initiative also could be used to define its own instruction set architecture or extend an existing one.
Officials of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology hosted the first meeting of the so-called China National Instruction Set Architecture initiative in March. Representatives of about 20 China organizations attended the meeting, including communications giants Huawei and ZTE as well as a number of academic groups.
The effort is one of several led by China’s leaders in an effort to set its own standards and thus own intellectual property rather than paying for IP from foreign companies. China has already set its own standards in everything from CD/DVD players to surveillance video systems.
I wonder what they will pick? If it were up to me (being them) I would go for something unique and patent it so that they control their own market. I wonder if they can build the needed support for the OS, device drivers, software applications, etc. for a new architecture? Could be both exciting and scary.
The article mentions about at least 5 existing processors architectures are considered. Which are they?
I wonder the outcome of the initiative. Will there be 1 architecture for all? Or 2-3 architectures for server, workstation and mobile devices, etc.
If they select one of the existing architectures, dont they still have to pay royalty to other companies? I thought the main idea of this exercise is to stop paying the foreign companies any royalty just like TS-CDMA/Qualcomm issue.
I think it's an issue of shades of gray. Getting out of big royalty payments is the goal. But as the MIPS exec said they are willing to pay something for a license to an architecture they can customize and at the end of the day cut a deal that significantly lowers royalty and gives them more control.
Didn't Bloomberg speculate about a week ago that MIPS was for sale?
China, with its bags of cash, could simply pick that one up (watch the USG try to block the sale) and own the IP as well as any existing licenses.
China is only one nation which clearly knows the right areas of investments for the future. They want everything to be home grown and do not want to buy from any other nation. Will this be good sign for overall global economy or not?
Imposed standards can work, I suppose, but in general, the bureaucracy involved in the decision making process slows innovation. If the architecture is mandated by the central government, where's the incentive to keep improving it?
While I can understand why China prefers independence, to jump ahead they need more than an ISA, the latter almost being irrelevant today because of the heavy software layers.
What they need is the whole eco-system of associated EDA tools (generate ISA from specs), software development tools (compiler, simulator, RTOS, ...) and programming models. In the end, the determining factor will be fast they can crank out new applications, migrate to the next semicon technology at lowest power consumption and highest performance. I will take years before all that is in place.
Don't they already have their own CPU architecture - the Longmarch CPUs? This was a copy of the MIPS ISA. This is also apparently what they use in their supercomputers. They will soon realize that defining an ISA is the easy part. Getting folks to design and implement competitive CPUs around that ISA and the ecosystem around it is what makes an ISA succesful.
How about the OpenSparc architecture that was made open source by Sun? Apparently you can download the RTL for free. China likes free.
I would think the available tool chain would be a strong influencing factor. It's hard to make a new hardware architecture. But it's probably harder to make a decent optimizing C compiler (and related tools) for it. An architecture with an existing and mature GCC implementation would make a lot of sense.
I do not blame them, just by looking the history ,if some companies are extremely monopolistic and greedy e.g. Microsoft, and now Apple...and asking to much for their goods, services, they direct calling a competitor to destroy their hegemony e.g. AT+T and the ip phones. And to note something to one previous comment:"Remember how successful DoD was in mandating use of ADA? This too will implode. No worries man." The marketplace ultimately rules." 1) China is not the US, 2)China is the largest market with the size of it's middle class which is = the size of the whole US population,3) it is not impossible that they will learn from the mistakes happened elsewhere -e.g.US - and make a better system.
This may be special requirement and protection for Chinese Defence projects. They need CPU for which they have all rights and they can get it in Rad Hard version. This is must requirement for Defence industry like China.
We all must look at China's this initiative with a lot of seriousness. Chinese leadership always plans for long term goals and not short term profits. If they intend to do something on their own they really mean it and they will be successful in it also, I bet.
Bad idea. Much better to allow competing designs to compete continuously. With a government mandate, they will compete exactly one time, after which they will be stuck with a single design. The winner will have little need for continued innovation, knowing that they have locked down a huge market. Once ingrained in the Chinese government, and all they subsidize, it will be practically impossible to extricate. The losers will fade away or, more likely, second source the winning design. And then there is the inevitable political dealings involved with winning the contest in the first place.
You are right jaybus. Nothing like a large government bureacracy to make your engineering decisions for you!
Just imagine a scenario: you come up with some small, low-power consumer design. You find the perfect processor, maybe some new ultra-low power one that a European company comes out with that will really set your product apart. The government steps in "Sorry comrade: either use the official Chinese processor, or go to jail".
Some important things to remember:
China is a centralized government society.
Given the chance, wouldn't all of us as engineers opt for a shiny new architecture rather than an old x86 or even MIPS RISC, ARM or ARC?
China has vast human resources they can put to designing a new architecture.
China may be looking for a showcase (Don't you remember the Olympics?)
Designing a new architecture would be an extremely difficult project to be successful (and "extremely" isn't a big enough word for it), but did I mention centralized government, control, and massive manpower?
I've got more to say, but apparently the "machine" won't let the comments be longer than the original story so look to http://www.strategysanity.com/o/charch.html for more than 2000 characters worth.
"China has vast human resources they can put to designing a new architecture. "
That reminds me of the Seymour Cray quote:
"Last week Control data... announced the 6600 system. I understand that in the laboratory developing the system there were only 34 people including the janitor. Of these, 14 are engineers and 4 are programmers.. Contrasting this modest effort with our vast development activities, I fail to understand why we have lost our industry leadership position by letting someone else offer the world's most powerful computer." - Watson
"It seems like Mr. Watson has answered his own question." - Seymour Cray
This is the most efficient government I can say now. A govt planning such a massive endeavor just to keep the country growing? China owns this century because I cannot see any govt that compete with it
They tried this before and it flopped then, as it will now. Politicians do need a reality filter sometimes, lest they believe their own hype, and trot out this sort of laughable Emperors Clothes.
I guess in China, no one is brave enough to say that.
Like others have said, the Chinese government has done this sort of thing many times before. Including for their own cellular standard and their own DTV standard. Didn't they also develop the CD-V, because it was cheaper than DVD players and DVDs?
I always think about that last example, when I see the (few remaining) DVD players on store shelves going for next to nothing. CD-V is cheaper? I doubt it. May have been for the first couple of years of the DVD, maybe. Was it a smart way to go? I don't know, but I suspect it was rather counterproductive. Did the anyone in the rest of the world adopt their home-grown standards? Not that I know of.
Of course, the population of China is enormous. China and India alone, two countries out of 150+, account for 1 of every 3 people on the planet. So one might expect that they have the talent to pull these things off, no? But it probably depends on how much control the government exerts on the actual design. By which I'm saying, the more government control, the worse off they would end up.
The success or failure of a standard will depend, in part, on the motives. If it is done for protectionism it is likely to fail but if it is done to create a large single market it is likely to succeed.
Many years ago Europe looked to the advantage that the USA had with a single market and set about trying to copy it. The GSM phone standard is a good example of a common standard success story.
If I had to put money on it I would say the Chinese are more likely to succeed than fail.
The reason I believe this is 8 out of 9 Chinese government officials are Engineers.
Compare that to the USA and Europe where the bankers seem to have taken over control.
Arm has become the dominate CPU in smartphones and tablets. Intel and MIPS have tried very hard to replace ARM in market this and have consistently failed to do so. Why not?
With smartphones, price, speed, size, and power all enter in to the decision process. Even a 10% power difference can be a make-or-break feature for a particular brand of phone.
I'm not the designer of a smartphone, so I don't know what the magic formula is to make Arm the obvious choice. But neither is the Chinese government. Forcing the choice means forcing many phone designers to make suboptimal choices, which means the phones will not be competitive. The same is true for portable and desktop computers.
It is completely obvious to me that this is going to completely flop and a few years from now this program will be as forgotten as the Chinese LongMarch CPU, which was going to replace Intel and AMD processors.
They should push for open architectures, software and hardware alike. That's the wisest thing to do IMO. This would meet their techonolgy independence goal and ensure the necessary world-wide critical mass (hence lower cost, easier maintenance and more robustness). If they try to push for their own proprietory architectures, they will live to regret it IMO.
Wow, I really hope they do it, because we know the important thing to have in a vital, innovative, growing market is a government driven, design by committee architecture where free ideas are not tolerated.