A big leap behind the x86
Also on the road map is the Godson 2H, a single-chip PC processor that integrates graphics, a memory controller and a full suite of peripherals due in late 2011. Hu's group also plans a 16-core server chip for 2012, the Godson 3C.
The Godson paper created a buzz at Hot Chips where Hu was peppered with questions after his talk. However, some--including analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 in a video interview--expressed skepticism whether China could make good on its ambitious plans, particularly for securing 28nm process technology.
The eight-core Godson 3B is in the works at a time when AMD is already shipping a 12-core server chip. Intel described at Hot Chips its Westmere-EX, a 32nm dual-threaded, ten-core server processor with advanced security and virtualization features it will ship soon.
China's CPU engineers plan to leapfrog 45nm process technology, using a 28nm process for their next generation design. Hu optimistically predicted he will have a prototype 28nm Godson design by April, though real products will not be ready until 2012.
However, it's unclear where China will find a 28nm fab. It currently uses STMicro with TSMC as "a second source," Hu said.
TSMC will have 28nm available for key partners such as Xilinx and Altera in 2011, but it's unclear whether a China national project would fab its part in a Taiwanese foundry.
STMicro and China have a long relationship. In the early 1990's ST and the Shenzhen Electronics Group held talks about building an advanced fab in southern China, but the discussions never came to fruition.
The Chinese government has invested as much as US$10 billion in a range of 16 high tech projects in the last five years, said Hu, a member of China's National People's Congress and a professor at ICT. The projects range from China's space program to systems to handle the country's growing water pollution problem, but the brunt of the spending has gone into an initiative to develop a homegrown processor and operating system, he said.
The Godson processor initiative got its start nearly a decade ago in China's 10th Five-Year Plan. The project has met its goal of the current Five-Year Plan--developing a range of CPUs for desktops and servers.
In the next decade--the period of China's 12th and 13th Five-Year Plans--the country aims to build out an ecosystem for the chips.