China has now officially gone deep into the core of high end computing, way to the deepest level - designing and manufacturing its own CPUs - to complete the whole vertical stack from the processor to the application. That includes having own designs covering everything from smartphone to supercomputer, based on three main architectural families: ARM, MIPS and Alpha.
Our last week's report, and its coverage of the Chinese CPUs, has sparked quite a few online comments on various forums, from those of encouragement and seeking more diversified CPU futures, to outright dismissal of these chips as copies or inferior designs, or not having, out of all things, X86 architecture - widely regarded as the worst ever CPU architecture from a design point of view - as a 'proof of true capability'.
Well, let's take a look at the three chosen main architectures here. ARM, MIPS and Alpha are all native RISC architectures - meaning simple, symmetric, orthogonal instruction sets with only a few addressing modes and options, uniform instruction format and easy scalability to both wide cores, multi-cores and a range of speeds from low power to top performance, with much lower gate count required than any X86. Since China doesn't want to depend on Western software stack for its public and, especially, government use, it doesn't need to rely on X86 as this architecture's winning chip is software compatibility with hundreds of thousands of past applications.
So, why bother with the X86 complexities - both technical and legal - then? The internal market is more than good enough to, coupled with Linux and other open source stacks, provide complete solutions and the volumes required to justify these processors even commercially over long run.
Talking about legality: No, these are not fakes or illegal copies right now. The ARM and MIPS processors made in China are fully licensed by the relevant ARM and MIPS IP owning consortia, while the Shenwei Alpha-compatible chip is based on Digital (DEC) IP that is well over 15 years old now - quite ironic for a CPU that matches the best current X86 processors based on 2010 IP and in 2 generations later process.
Read more: http://vr-zone.com/articles/chinese-hig ... z1hr2U0cc2
Pretty interesting read, it's an article series in four parts. The last part is not published yet. Links to