Hexin Technology, a CPU developer from China, said it has powered the HX-C2000 TC2, the second-generation test chip of its upcoming HX-C2000 processor based on the RISC instruction set architecture, marking another step forward for China and one the country is looking forward to… Overcoming US sanctions. The chip contains 110 billion transistors and uses IBM’s open source Power ISA. The company plans to use the CPU for a wide range of applications, including artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and cloud computing, Jiwei.com reports.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Hexin’s HX-C2000 is the company’s choice of architecture. Most server CPUs today use Arm, RISC-V, or x86 instruction set architecture (ISA), but the Hexin team turned to IBM’s Power, an open source RISC ISA. The ISA is officially open to everyone and debuted in China in 2014. The Hexin team has 400 members, many of whom were recruited from IBM’s High Performance R&D Center. The team “rebuilt” IBM’s closed design methodology using EDA chip design tools, design flow, and architecture.
The server market in China is expected to reach $30.8 billion in 2023 (according to IDC), and the vast majority of servers sold in China are based on x86 processors from AMD and Intel. Given the restrictions imposed by the US government on China’s artificial intelligence and high-performance computing sectors, the country tends to build its own CPUs and GPUs for use in consumer personal computers and servers.
Hexin’s HX-C2000 server design features an unknown number of RISC cores and adequate I/O capabilities. Before Hexin can build the full HX-C2000, it must build test chips (TC). The initial version of the TC1 was up and running in 2022, and more recently, the company commissioned its second test chip, the TC2 (HX-C2000TC2). Apparently, Hexin’s HX-C2000TC2 took just four hours to boot, indicating the silicon is ready. In addition, the developer claims that the chip met all his expectations.
The TC2 silicon is an important step toward fully decommissioning the HX-C2000 and mass producing it sometime next year, though it’s unclear when exactly the company will deliver the final chips.
Although the server software supports RISC ISA, it’s barely optimized for Hexin’s HX-C2000, especially for modern workloads like AI, HPC, and the cloud. However, while Hexin may make the HX-C2000 available next year, it will take the company some time to ensure that its CPU is properly supported by popular software used in the markets it plans to serve.