China’s Hexin Technology Develops Second-Gen Processor Using IBM’s Open Source Power ISA

Hexin Technology, a prominent CPU developer in China, announced the successful power-on of its HX-C2000 TC2, the second-generation test chip for its forthcoming HX-C2000 processor. Setting itself apart from current server CPU designs, Hexin opted for IBM’s open source Power ISA, steering away from the prevalent x86, Arm, and RISC-V instruction set architectures. The HX-C2000 chip, equipped with a staggering 110 billion transistors, aims to cater to diverse applications such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and cloud computing.

While most server CPUs in China rely on x86 processors from Intel and AMD, the country’s ongoing endeavor to overcome US sanctions has prompted a quest for alternative processor designs. Hexin’s adoption of IBM’s Power ISA introduces a unique approach to the market, leveraging an open source architecture that debuted in China back in 2014. With a team of 400 professionals, many of whom previously worked at IBM’s high-performance R&D center, Hexin has skillfully reconstructed IBM’s closed design methodology using its own chip design tools, architecture, and design flow.

China’s server market is projected to reach a substantial value of $30.8 billion by 2023, predominantly driven by x86-based servers. However, faced with the restrictions imposed by the US government on China’s AI and high-performance computing sectors, there is an increasing impetus to cultivate homegrown CPUs and GPUs for consumer PCs and servers.

Hexin’s latest achievement, the TC2 silicon, signals a significant milestone toward the eventual production of the entire HX-C2000 processor. Although the company has not specified an exact timeframe for the delivery of final chips, their successful power-on of the test chip, HX-C2000TC2, within just four hours underscores the silicon’s readiness. Hexin has expressed confidence that the chip has met or exceeded all of its expectations.

While server programs are compatible with the RISC ISA, further optimization would be required to maximize the potential of Hexin’s HX-C2000, particularly for modern workloads such as AI, HPC, and cloud computing. Thus, Hexin acknowledges the need for extensive software support and compatibility efforts before the CPU can be effectively utilized in the targeted markets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is Hexin Technology’s latest achievement?
Hexin Technology has successfully powered on its second-generation test chip, HX-C2000TC2, for its upcoming HX-C2000 processor based on IBM’s open source Power ISA.

2. How does Hexin’s choice of architecture differ from conventional server CPUs?
While most server CPUs employ x86, Arm, or RISC-V instruction set architectures, Hexin’s HX-C2000 utilizes IBM’s Power ISA, an open source RISC ISA.

3. What is the significance of Hexin’s adoption of IBM’s Power ISA?
Hexin’s decision to incorporate IBM’s Power ISA offers an alternative to the prevalent designs and supports China’s aim to develop its own CPUs in light of US sanctions.

4. What applications is the HX-C2000 chip intended for?
The HX-C2000 chip is designed to cater to a wide range of applications, including artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and cloud computing.

5. What are the challenges Hexin faces in bringing the HX-C2000 to market?
While Hexin plans to make the HX-C2000 available next year, the company recognizes the need for extensive software optimization and compatibility efforts to ensure smooth integration with popular programs used in their target markets.