Alibaba announced today its wholly-owned acquisition of C-Sky, an independent embedded CPU IP core development company in China, but did not disclose the purchase amount.
As reported, Alibaba is now developing a neural network chip, Ali-NPU, which is an AI chip that will focus on imagery video analysis, machine learning and other AI reasoning calculations. Alibaba's AI chips are mainly used to solve AI inference problems in business scenes such as image, video recognition, and cloud computing to improve computational efficiency and reduce costs.
According to the design, Alibaba's Ali-NPU performance will be 10 times that of the current CPU and GPU architecture AI chips on the market, while the manufacturing cost and power consumption is only half, and the cost performance is more than 40 times. In the future, the capabilities of Ali-NPU can not only meet the video and image processing needs better, but also enable the output of computing power through Ali Cloud to empower all walks of life.
At present, Alibaba has set up a R&D team to carry out independent research and development of AI chips. It has reached dozens of people in the United States and Shanghai and is expected to reach 100 at the end of the year. In addition to C-Sky, Ali also invested in five chip companies including the Cambricon, Barefoot Networks, Deephi, Kneron, and ASR.
Alibaba CTO Zhang Jianfeng said that the acquisition of Zhongtianwei is an important part of Alibaba's chip blueprint. IP Core is the core of basic chip capabilities. Entering the IP Core area is the basis for Chinese chips to achieve “autonomous and controllable”.
And the C-Sky founder Yan Xiaolang said, “our team is committed to promoting Chinese CPU independent R&D and innovation capabilities. After joining Alibaba, we hope to promote large-scale commercial production of domestic self-owned chips through Alibaba’s powerful technology platform and ecosystem integration capabilities. In order to accelerate the advancement of 'China Core' in various fields of application."
According to the statistics, C-Sky is currently the only large-scale independent embedded CPU IP Core company in mainland China, focusing on 32-bit embedded CPU IP R&D and large-scale applications, for multimedia, security, home, transportation, smart cities, etc. In the area of IoT, the world has shipped more than 700 million chips.
Although China's chip self-sufficiency rate has continued to increase in recent years, in many areas, there is still a large gap between Chinese chips and international chip manufacturers. According to statistics, China’s chip imports amounted to US$230 billion in 2016, and the cost is almost double the amount of crude oil imported in the second place.
Coincidentally, the trade friction between China and the United States just happened recently. ZTE has also been subject to US commercial sanctions just a few days ago. After these things happen, Chinese chip makers seem to be moving frequently. Alibaba is an example.