Opportunities and prospects of the 12-nm Loongson 3A6000 chip based on its own architecture

A little over a year ago

became known

that the Chinese, or rather, the Chinese company Loongson Technology, developed an architecture from scratch, called Loongson Architecture or LoongArch. The developers of Loongson stated that the command system of the new architecture includes about 2000 unique instructions. Due to the fact that all technologies were developed almost from scratch, the company managed to achieve increased energy efficiency of the processor.

In the summer of 2022, there was news about the release of the Chinese Godson 3C5000 processor, which appeared a few days ago. It is based on the Chinese LoongArch architecture. The chip is intended for general computing, large data centers and cloud computing centers. At the same time, it became known about the 3C6000 processor with 16 cores, which is quite modern and suitable for use in many industries. Well, now the Chinese have developed another chip, for which the test results are already known.

old, new, powerful

In June, the company announced the 3C6000 processor with 16 cores. It is based on the same architecture – LoongArch. It has up to 64MB of cache and four 4-bit DDR4-3200 memory channels. They also promised to release a 32-core 3D6000, which includes two 3C6000 crystals on one substrate. Both chips are compatible with MIPS ISA, which is necessary for compatibility with software developed for previous generation chips.

Now the company has developed and already tested the 3A6000 processor, which is quite comparable in performance to AMD’s Ryzen 5000 chips.

For China, this is a real achievement, since the chips from AMD, which are discussed above, are quite modern. They are now used in many electronic systems, largely due to their excellent performance and relatively low price.

As for the cost of Chinese chips, manufacturers have not yet spoken about it. But it is unlikely that it will be much larger than that of AMD – simply because in this case, few people will be able or willing to buy devices based on such chips. Ryzen 5000 went on sale a couple of years ago, it turns out that the Chinese are not too far behind their international counterparts. 3-4 years, no more. At the same time, the Celestial Empire was able to very quickly develop the industry for the development and production of semiconductor components.

What is the architecture of the new chip?

Loongson is about 20 years old, in fact, it is a rebranding of BLX IC Design Corporation, founded in 2002. The shares in the company and part of the technologies are owned by the Institute of Computer Technology of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Jiangsu Zhongy Group.

The company introduced the first processor in 2008; several hundred engineers from the Institute of Computer Technologies worked on the technology. Funding is provided by the Chinese government.

The course for independence was taken after MIPS Technologies

switched to RISC-V

. Loongson has developed its own instruction format, instruction encoding, addressing modes, and so on. LoongArch, the company’s architecture, contains about 2,000 proprietary instructions. According to the developers, they have removed obsolete instructions to ensure lower power consumption and more efficient operation. In addition to the core instruction set, the company has added Binary Transform Extension (LBT) instructions, Vector Processing Extension (LSX) instructions, Extended Vector Processing Extension (LASX) instructions, and Virtualization Extension (LVZ) instructions.

Test results

According to company representatives, the 3A6000 processor shows a 68% improvement in the SPEC CPU 2006 test compared to its predecessor 3A5000 (which was introduced in the spring of 2021). The test checks the performance in single core mode in floating point operations.

Unfortunately, at the moment this is all the data provided by the Chinese. The developers promised to present the results of other tests in the near future, but so far there is only the test indicated above. But, in general, it’s already good that there are some results, you can get a preliminary impression of the new development.

And who will produce?

This is the most interesting question. The fact is that the company itself is not able to produce chips of its own design. It does not have the appropriate capacities and equipment for this. Therefore, it is necessary to negotiate with third-party partners.

Previously, the company used the services of TSMC, but now it is unlikely to cooperate with Taiwan. The US has banned the production of chips for China, against those companies that use American technology. At the moment, new chips are going to be produced by STMicroelectronics, which has previously fulfilled orders from Loongson.

Who will produce and supply new chips to the market is still unclear. Of course, the Chinese are trying to establish their own production, but so far it is a big question, and even if the Celestial Empire can do it, it is not clear when exactly. There are many external negative factors now, including additional US sanctions.

But since the Chinese are developing new chips, they probably have partners who are capable of producing new processors. Perhaps the company is relying on external partners. Maybe on the inside too. Not so long ago, Huawei, for example, began to build its own plant for the production of modern chips. For starters, the processor, which is called Kirin 9006C, is made using a 5-nm process technology. This is an eight-core chip with a core frequency of 3.13 GHz. Huawei is building the factory together with SMIC, another fairly well-known company from China. So it may well be that Loongson will solve the problems with the production of processors, one way or another.

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