Alibaba said in a conference call on Friday that Alibaba’s cloud computing department makes the Apsara operating system compatible with Arm, x86, RISC-V, and other processors. According to data from research firm IDC, by the second half of 2020, it has become a business giant and the fourth largest public cloud service in the world. The global chip market has been dominated by Intel x86 for PCs and Arm for mobile devices. An open-source chip architecture that competes with Arm technology is becoming more and more popular in the world, especially among Chinese developers. RISC-V was developed by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and can be used by anyone without a license or patent. It is generally not subject to U.S. export controls.
The Trump administration’s ban on Huawei and ZTE for national security reasons effectively cut the links between the Chinese telecommunications giant and American technology companies, including major semiconductor suppliers. The subsidiary was forced to cut off its relationship with Huawei and said it would continue to issue licenses to China. This makes it possible to actually manufacture microcircuits designed using this architecture.
As developers prepare for future US technology restrictions, sanctions have caused a surge in RISC-V activity in the Chinese technology industry, and Alibaba is at the forefront of this move. Alibaba Cloud, Huawei, and ZTE are the top 13 members of RISC-V International, which means they will have a place on the board of directors and the technology management community. In 2019, the semiconductor department of e-commerce company T-Head launched the first RISC-V-based Xuantie 910 core processor.
This operating system can be used with different chip systems instead of traditional architectures and may be good for Alibaba Cloud to Prepare for China’s future chip independence. Zhang Jianfeng, President of Alibaba Cloud Research Group, said at the event: “The IT ecosystem was traditionally defined by chips, but cloud computing fundamentally changed that.” Cloud operating systems can standardize the processing capabilities of server chips, dedicated PS, and other hardware. Whether the chip is based on x86, Arm, RISC-V, or a hardware accelerator, the cloud computing products provided to customers are standardized and high-quality. At the same time, some people believe that Chinese companies prefer alternative products such as RISC-V, which means that technology and standards will be further polarized. Unless RISC-V is widely used in other parts of the world, this is not ideal for global cooperation.