China's most powerful chip: Alibaba introduces proprietary 128-core ARM-based Yitian 710 server processor
Alibaba Cloud announced its proprietary ARM-based Yitian 710 server processors at its annual Apsara Conference. The processors are designed by T-Head, a subsidiary of Alibaba created in 2018, and are produced by TSMC on the 5 nm nodes. Alibaba will use these processors to power the Panjiu servers for its own cloud infrastructure.
The Yitian 710 is certainly an impressive piece of technology, as it integrates 128 ARM V9 cores clocked at up to 3.2 GHz with a total of 60 billion transistors. For reference, an AMD EPYC Rome only has 40 billion transistors. Presumably, T-Head used ARM’s Neoverse N1 cores, although Alibaba does not specify the exact core technology. It supports octa-channel DDR5 RAM, 96 PCIe 5.0 lanes and is designed with multiprocessor configurations in mind. As far as performance is concerned, Alibaba claims that the Yitian 710 is 20% faster and 50% more energy efficient than the current state-of-the-art ARM server CPUs (possibly referring to Amazon’s Graviton2), with a SPECint2017 score of 440 points.
Since the ARM acquisition is still pending and Nvidia might impose restrictions in the future if it manages to finalize the deal, Alibaba is also determined to explore the RISC-V architecture as a viable alternative. For now, there are no plans to sell the T-Head Yitian 710 processors to other companies, so any direct competition with Intel or AMD is out of the question.