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.