Huawei Launches Server Chipset To Lessen US Reliance

Chinese networking equipment maker Huawei Technologies has officially launched a new chipset aimed at servers.

The move is being widely interpreted as a way for the Chinese giant to reduce its reliance on Western technology, as it finds itself in the midst of Western bans on the use of its 5G networking equipment over security concerns.

The Huawei move comes after the US government almost put its fellow Chinese firm ZTE out of business last year, after after a ban was imposed that prevented US companies from selling equipment (and chips) to the firm.

US reliance

The ban very nearly put ZTE, one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment makers, out of business, since it was heavily dependent upon parts obtained from the US.

But in July the ban was lifted after US president Donald Trump personally intervened, saying he wanted to protect Chinese jobs and also arguing that ZTE is a major buyer of US components.

But that showed the Chinese that the US did have the means to hurt Chinese firms, that rely on the importing of US-based tech.

And so now the Huawei server chipset arrival is helping China reduce its heavy reliance on imports.

It should be remembered that Huawei gains the majority of its sales from telecommunications equipment and smartphones, but is seeking growth avenues in cloud computing and enterprise services in light of increasing Western suspicion.

It already has its own mobile chipset (Kirin) and a chipset for AI (Ascend), and has now according to Reuters, launched the server chipset known as Kunpeng 920, which is designed by subsidiary HiSilicon.

The thinking is that 7 nanometre, 64-core central processing unit (CPU) is aimed at the data centre sector, where the ARM-based architecture will help reduce power consumption.

However Huawei was keen to stress that it had no intention of becoming solely a chip firm.

“It is part of our system solution and cloud servicing for clients … We will never make our chipset business a standalone business,” Ai Wei, who is in charge of strategic planning for Huawei’s chipsets and hardware technology was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Intel partnership

Meanwhile another Huawei pointed out that it would continue its partnership with US chip giant Intel.

Huawei aims to “drive the development of the ARM ecosystem”, said Chief Marketing Officer William Xu. He said the chip has “unique advantages in performance and power consumption”.

Xu also said Huawei will continue its “long-term strategic partnership” with Intel.

Huawei’s new ARM-based CPU is not a competitor to Intel’s x86 CPUs and servers, but complementary, Xu added.

Computing is a growing business for Huawei, which only shipped 77,000 servers in 2012 when it first entered the hardware market. But in 2018 it shipped an impressive 900,000 units of servers.

Huawei also released its TaiShan series of servers powered by the new chipset, built for big data, distributed storage and ARM native applications.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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