TSMC doesn’t have to complain about the lack of customers about its advanced manufacturing processes. Young Chinese players are ready to take quotas, which were freed from HiSilicon after the US sanctions were imposed. For example, Cambricon, which began producing processors for solving AI tasks at the facilities of a Taiwanese contractor.
TSMC is reported to have begun mass production of Cambricon’s 7nm AI chip (MLU). It became the first Chinese AI chip developer to go public on the local STAR exchange for high-tech companies. Cambricon is interesting in that it was created in 2016 and developed a neural accelerator unit for Huawei’s Kirin 980 processors. The sanctions against Huawei seriously crippled Cambricon’s business, but did not break it and put it into a new orbit.
The new Cambricon MLU 290 AI chip is based on a 7nm process technology and contains 46 billion transistors. Compared to the previous 16nm MLU 270 design, the new MLU 290 chip offers 4x the peak performance, 12x the memory bandwidth and 19x the inter-chip bandwidth.
Based on MLU 290, which is suitable for both model training and decision making, accelerator cards are available with several chips: MLU290-M5 and Xuansi 1000. Accelerator cards use Cambricon’s MLU-Link technology, which provides AI performance up to 1024 TOPS with 350W maximum heat dissipation. The Xuansi 1000 smart accelerator, for example, combines four MLU 290s with a maximum AI performance of over 4.1 PetaOPS for INT4 operations. Analysts believe Cambricon has a chance to break NVIDIA’s monopoly in China.
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