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Alibaba Rumored To Enter The Arm Server Chip Race

6 min read
fairly difficult
The chip cold war between China and the United States continues to heat up like a processor with a heat sink that it is a little too small, and the
scuttlebutt is that this week Alibaba, the Chinese online retailer and cloud service provider that is roughly analogous to Amazon and its Amazon Web Services division, will launch its own Arm server processor.

The announcement, according to various reports, will happen sometime this week at Alibaba's annual Aspara conference, which runs from October 19 through 22. And it will represent yet another step in China's desire to have semiconductor independence, which we discussed a month ago in detail.

A report in the South China Morning Post, which cited a report in the media aggregator site Caixin that has been subsequently removed, says that Alibaba taped out whatever this server chip is called in the early summer and may be "releasing it soon."

This report also indicated that this rumored server chip is based on a 5 nanometer manufacturing process, which strongly suggests that this processor will be etched by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC). How long this will last remains to be seen for reasons we will discuss in a moment. Suffice it to say, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), the largest indigenous foundry in China, has peaked thus far with a 14 nanometer FinFET processor and can't do it, and neither can United Microelectronics Corp (UMC), which is also based in Taiwan and which is actually an older foundry than TSMC, since it has peaked at 14 nanometer processes. (Both SMIC and UMC offer chip etching in larger geometries spanning up to 90 nanometers. Korean memory maker and server chip wannabe Samsung has 7 nanometer processes in the field and is manufacturing IBM's "Cirrus" Power10 processor, launched a month ago in the Power E1080 server, but does not yet have production 5 nanometer processes in production. Intel Foundry Services, the chip manufacturing operation that Intel created earlier this year to open up the chip maker's foundries to the designs of other chip makers, would undoubtedly love to get business from Alibaba,…
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