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How much impact does ARM have on Huawei?

via:虎嗅网     time:2019/5/23 9:10:38     readed:211

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Sure enough, just at 7 o'clock last night, the BBC got the ARM internal notification file directly:Because it includes technology from the United States, ARM (UK) has asked employees to “stop all contracts, support and pending agreements with Huawei and its subsidiaries.”

After seeing this news, Tiger Sniff also learned some things from ARM China related people -ARM China's new product launch was cancelled, also because of pressure from the British parent company, apparently want to completely avoid suspicion.

Huawei also issued a short statement at a later date:

We value close relationships with our partners, but we also recognize the pressure on some of them due to politically motivated decisions. We believe that this regrettable situation can be resolved, and our top priority remains to continue to provide world-class technology and products to our global customers.

At this point, ARM's complete suspension of cooperation with Huawei is a foregone conclusion. But what should we think about this?

First, what kind of existence is ARM?

For a few people, ARM's name is no stranger. After all, this is a technology that boosts the entire intelligence with its own technology.Mobile phoneTimes company.

ARM's fist product is the "ARM processor", which is characterized by the use of RISC (reduced instruction set, relative to the CISC complex instruction set used by the PC), making the entire processor more efficient by streamlining the underlying operation of the computer. . This also makes it an optimal choice in the era of intelligent terminals with limited power supply and mobile use.

Of course, it is very important that ARM's own operating mechanism -ARM does not sell physical products, but only sells technology licenses. From the most basic instruction set to the specific Core design, and even the subsequent processor optimization magic modification, there are special technical authorization projects.

This model is a great invention in itself, and to some extent comparable to TSMC's foundry business.There are two main reasons for this -

First, the entry threshold of the mobile processor is greatly reduced.

Designing a chip is not an easy and fun thing, and it doesn't say how to recruit enough talents to conduct cutting-edge technology research and development. There is also a tens of millions of streaming, testing, and finally software and hardware compatibility and optimization. and many more.

However, due to the existence of ARM, the burden of mobile phone processor manufacturers is alleviated at once, because they no longer need to carry out the underlying development of the most risky processor, but can buy the authorization directly from ARM, and then take this Authorized to go to their own fabs or other foundries, using ARM's chip design data "fast (compared to self-developed chips)" to produce their own CPU, SoC and other chips.

Moreover, this model is also very stressful. ARM also needs to bear the expectation of the entire ecosystem for the performance of the processor. If you want to earn more revenue, you can only further expand the ARM ecosystem. This is undoubtedly a company worthy of admiration (say that the media that ARM is collecting and collecting money can go back to sleep and sleep).

Second, it is ARM's authorization mechanism, which guarantees the overall ecological order and maintains a good compatibility between software and hardware.

Different from the X86 architecture of the PC era, ARM's RISC architecture has been undergoing a large scale of evolution. In the face of huge performance requirements, ARM's instruction set has evolved more than ten times. If you want to fully exploit the hardware performance of a processor, the software system must support these instruction sets.

It is also because of the existence of ARM that the evolution rhythm of the instruction set of the entire ARM processor has been well controlled. The system does not need to frequently adapt to the new instruction set, and can further optimize the instruction set.

As for why ARM now "turns its face and does not recognize" Huawei, how many existing ARM processors contain technology from the United States? As of the time of publication, Tiger Sniff has not been able to get the argument from relevant people. But I believe it is still under direct pressure from the US government.

In the interview with Ren Zhengfei, the day before yesterday, the answer was: "The United States is a legal state. American companies cannot abide by the law. The real economy must abide by the law. The media should not be arrogant about American companies. Everyone speaks for American companies. ""

Second, what is ARM China?

Just last May, Tiger Sniffs had made a special report on the establishment of the ARM China joint venture ("China Core's first "breakout war").

ARM China fundraising PPT

The biggest highlight of the joint venture is that Chinese investors account for 51% of the shares, ARM accounts for 49% of the shares, and directly took over all of ARM's business in China.

ARM China fundraising PPT

Unfortunately, management leadership is not equal to the transfer of the overall technology. In an ARM China fundraising PPT that flowed out at the time, it clearly demonstrated the licensing relationship between ARM China and ARM UK parent company and Chinese customers: ARM UK parent company first authorized ARM China company, then ARM China can Authorization of Chinese customers, this order can not be disrupted.

Considering that the ARM UK parent company has issued a notice to suspend cooperation, the ARM China subsidiary has no way to cross the permission of the UK parent company and issue corresponding technical authorization to Huawei.

Slightly deeper, the establishment of ARM China is in fact inseparable from the rise of Haisi. Huawei’s smartphones continue to grow rapidly. Secondly, Huawei itself is the leader in the entire communications field. Now it has developed ARM like the 鲲鹏920.serverCPU. The establishment of a Chinese subsidiary will undoubtedly make the cooperation between the two parties more convenient.

3. How much impact will Huawei suffer?

Objectively speaking, it should be bigger than most people think.

According to ARM's own financial report, sales in China in the 2018 fiscal year accounted for about 20% of ARM's global sales, and most of this figure was contributed by Huawei HiSilicon.

As we mentioned above, ARM's authorization for processors is varied, but from the lowest infrastructure to the final processor, it can be divided into several files:

1. The first is the processor's instruction set.The instruction set is actually part of the hardware design logic of the ARM processor and the most basic part of the entire ARM processor. You can think of the actual CPU as a light, and the instruction set is a detailed manual. If you are strong enough, you can follow the instructions to create a "light". As long as you follow the instruction set as a processor, you will be able to find a compatible system and eventually implement the application with the help of the ecology.

2. Second is the Core "core" license.Because the instruction set is still too basic, ARM will also provide the actual processor design drawings to the customer. For example, the latest Cortex-A76, Cortex-A55. These design drawings are already available at the level that the fab is ready for production.

3. Finally, the authorization to improve and adjust the ARM processor.For example, Huawei, Qualcomm, and Samsung all have certain technical accumulations for ARM processors. They will choose to develop new processors on ARM, and even participate in the architecture phase to optimize their own processors. This is why Qualcomm is now. Samsung has no reason for ARM's own code name for the core of its SoC chip.

According to the existing information, Huawei is likely to have obtained a permanent license for the ARMv8 instruction set.In other words, Huawei can at least develop its own ARM processor and continue to enjoy the compatibility of the entire ecosystem for this instruction set.

But what's worse is that the ongoing iterative update of ARM Core licenses, as well as processor improvement optimization, deep collaboration, etc., will certainly be affected by the suspension of cooperation.

From the actual product level, if the relevant ban in the United States continues, if Huawei still wants to keep the chip competitive enough on its own products, thenHuawei actually has to complete the workload of the original "ARM+Competitor". You know, the former is a veteran semiconductor company that has been in the RISC processor field for 30 years and has more than 6,000 employees.

Huawei's high probability is difficult to bear such a big challenge.

However, the Kirin 985 processor, which has been exposed in the past few months and is rumored to be released next month, is likely to be less affected.After all, according to the usual research and development time of the semiconductor industry, Kirin 985 should have entered the stage of large-scale filming. As for the Kirin 990 after the 985, there is currently not enough information to judge the degree of influence.

But what is certain is that the projects after the Kirin 990 will encounter no small trouble. Not to mention new areas such as server processors and base station chips that Huawei's own chips are involved in.

Fourth, personal views and conclusions

To some extent, I personally feel that ARM's suspension of cooperation is not the most serious.

Take the mobile phone SoC chip, Huawei's Kirin 980 has actually reached the world's leading level (performance, communication capabilities, energy consumption), and we are now in the 4G network to continue to spread widely, 5G promotion is still ongoing Schedule. The performance of the smartphone itself has entered a relatively flat development period. If you really want to take the Kirin 980, it will not be a year or two.

In contrast, the production of chips is much more deadly. The excellence of Kirin 980 is also attributed to TSMC's 7nm process technology to a certain extent. At present, the stable production level of domestic fabs remains at around 14nm. To make a simple algorithm, the process difference is 2 times, the area is 4 times larger (the process is side length, the area needs to be squared), and the power consumption and heat should rise simultaneously.After changing to "Ken" 980, it is absolutely impossible to plug into your current mobile phone.

Undoubtedly, today, China will certainly start a wave of "independent innovation" because of ARM's suspension of cooperation, but it is precisely at this time that we need to go back and read the two paragraphs that Ren Zhengfei said in the interview the day before yesterday. words:

Why not wash a "cold bath"? I think that our most important thing is to be calm and calm. The blood is boiling, the slogan is flying all over the sky, and it is useless when the last fight is over. It is really true that you can win if you can win.

Independent innovation as a kind of spirit is worth encouraging. Innovation based on human civilization is correct. However, we must see that technological innovation needs to stand on the shoulders of predecessors. For example, our Heis is not independent innovation from the source, but also pays a large amount of intellectual property fees to others, and some have signed cross-licensing agreements. Some agreements are permanently authorized, you have me, I have you, and form our own innovation on the basis of others.

Because semiconductors are really an industry that has to be "globalized."

Image from: Moore Elite

In 2017 alone, the total output value of the entire semiconductor industry was as high as $430 billion, and the electronics industry that was born was as much as $1.5 trillion. This is not the high cost of materials and R&D investment in the semiconductor industry.

In such a high-speed iteration and fiercely competitive frontier technology industry, blind pursuit of independent innovation may be the worst result.

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