Published in AI

Huawei working on an AI GPU

by on11 April 2020

As Apple settled with Imagination

Huawei, for the most part, relies on ARM IP. It  uses the ARM Cortex CPU and Mali GPU cores for its SoCs. The company has high AI aspirations with its Ascend series of chips. Now recent rumors point out that the Chinese giant is setting up a GPU research center in South Korea and focuses on AI and datacenter.

What we can add is that just off Nvidia campus in Santa Clara, Huawei has had its offices for several years. I noticed that going for a meeting at Nvidia campus and such an occurrence triggered the idea that this is more than just pure coincidence. Traditionally big giants set up offices in the places where there is most talent.

To give you an example, Samsung would set up massive CPU operation in Austin (now dissolved), very close to AMD and Texas Instruments, because the talent is there. Apple also has a significant presence in Austin. Nvidia has a few people too, and AMD has a large office in Santa Clara too. Nuvia also set up offices in both Austin and Toronto (ex ATI now AMD talent). You get the common theme.

Now South Korea is a place where a lot of Samsung and LG talent is concentrated, and these would be primary targets for Huawei. There is a lot of manufacturing talent in South Korea too, and one  imagines that Huawei opening a significant operation in Tawain is unlikely due to ties with the government.

Ascend 910 AI

Huawei announced in late summer 2019 that it has a 350W AI accelerator called Ascend 910. The solution packs an AI processor delivering 256 TFLOPS@FP16 and 512 TOPS@INT8 of compute performance. It is clearly a data center solution.

It took Apple years to make its own GPU. It resulted in a lot of ideas borrowed from Imagination technologies that resulted in a massive lawsuit. The lawsuit was finally settled in the first days of 2020. Bear in mind that Apple has incredible resources, and it still took more than half of a decade of intensive work to get its GPU up and running.

Huawei’s motivation is a tailored AI, cloud experience based on a GPU, and who knows at some point maybe even a consumer product for its phones and more. With pressure from the US government and trade embargo, this is most likely the course of action. Huawei is a very patient company that will spend years to develop a significant product. It already happened with phones, and it making nice progress with notebooks too.

We will see how this turns out, but it is a fact that Huawei might be poaching talent from Nvidia, and probably every other company involved with GPUs.

Last modified on 11 April 2020
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