SAN FRANCISCO – Loongson Technology Corp. Ltd. is sampling its first commercial microprocessor with plans to ship production chips in the fall to as many as 10 China server makers. The milestone, if reached, represents a long-term dream of China’s technocrats--a home-grown computer based on its own microprocessor.
Loongson (Beijing, China) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences described the Godson 3B1500, an eight-core server chip, at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) here. The 32-nm part is sampling now with the tape-out of a shrink to a 28-nm manufacturing process expected within two months.
The 28-nm version will be Loongson’s first commercial processor, Weiwu Hu, who heads the project, told EE Times in an interview at ISSCC. He cautioned that it’s still early days for the architecture despite the fact it has been in development for nearly a decade. STMicroelectronics NV has been a manufacturing partner for Loongson in the past.
"Our ecosystem is still small," Hu said, noting Loongson has been actively developing a server software community for its 64-bit MIPS-based processor for about 18 months.
Developers in China have created a database and middleware platform for Godson in Java that rides on Linux. They have also developed a software stack for running storage and email servers.
"We are initially targeting dedicated markets with fixed software stacks," said Hu, who attended ISSCC in a traditional Mao-era suit fitted with a red pin signifying his membership of the Communist Party
The processor has been tested running open-source KVM virtualization software as well as Hadoop, he said. Such software could help it make inroads into general-purpose servers in data centers for Web services such as Baidu, China’s search engine.
China server makers Dawning, Great Wall and Inspur are among the ten systems companies planning to use Godson. The processor may sport somewhat lower performance than competing chips from Intel and others, but Loongson and its partners will have an advantage in price and in local support, Hu said.
Loongson and CAS oversee two of about six major microprocessor efforts in China, Hu said. Besides its effort in commercial servers, Loongson is working on versions of Godson for government supercomputers as well as for personal computers and embedded systems.
"We have done pilot runs of a few thousand Godson desktops," Hu said. “They are being used mainly in government-related businesses."
In addition, 32-bit embedded versions of the Godson core are already used in televisions made by China’s Haier and Hisense. Loongson has a license to the MIPS architecture on which Godson is based, Hu added.
Separately, C*Core develops and licenses embedded processors. Its technology is based on Motorola’s M*Core design.
At least two other microprocessor teams in China are quietly working on supercomputer-class projects, Hu said. Loongson is also developing versions of Godson for such high performance systems, he added.
The following pages provide some details of the 32-nm Godson 3B1500 processor that Loongson is now sampling.
So ST used to help Loongson get Godson processors made.
Who is making the 32-nm version? Globalfoundries, Samsung, TSMC? And is it strictly bulk, planar CMOS?
It is looking like it could be a Globalfoundries shuffle from 32-nm to 28-nm, but any body that knows for sure is welcome to chime in.
As of 2010, GlobalFoundries and TSMC already cancelled 32 nm going directly to 28 nm instead (at least in naming). So the 32 nm Godson is probably made by Samsung if after 2010.
Samsung still offers 32 nm today:
MIPs based servers - I remember that died in the late 80s. How much traction they will see in the market is to be seen given the challenges of getting the army of ecosystem developers to drop what they are doing and support another new MIPS ISA.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.