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China Debuts First 7nm Data Center GPU To Rival Nvidia, AMD

Big Island (BI) GPGPU
Big Island (BI) GPGPU (Image credit: Tianshu Zhixin)

Shanghai Tianshu Zhixin Semiconductor Co., Ltd., commonly known as Tianshu Zhixin, announced that its Big Island (BI) GPGPU has come to life. The BI is touted as China's first domestic GPGPU that's tailored towards AI and HPC applications and other industries, such as education, medicine, and security.

The BI packs 24 billion transistors, and it's based on a home-made GPU architecture. The chip is built with the cutting-edge 7nm process node and 2.5D CoWoS (chip-on-wafer-on-substrate) packaging. Tianshu Zhixin doesn't explicitly reveal the foundry that's responsible for producing the BI. However, the description of the node coincides with one of TSMC's manufacturing processes.

Tianshu Zhixin commmenced development on its BI chip in 2018. The company finalized the tapeout for BI back in May 2020 and should have already underwent mass production if Tianshu Zhixin wants to meets its goal of commercializing the chip this year.

The BI solution reportedly provides twice the performance of existing mainstream products on the market, while also offering a very appealing performance-to-cost ratio. BI supports a plethora of floating point formats, including FP32, FP16, BF16, INT32, INT16, and INT8, just to mention a few. 

Tianshu Zhixin is keeping a tight lip on the BI's performance, but the company has teased FP16 performance up to 147 TFLOPS. For comparison, the Nvidia A100 and AMD Instinct MI100 deliver FP16 performance figures up to 77.97 TFLOPS and 184.6 TFLOPS, respectively. Note however that Nvidia's A100 also has Tensor cores that can do 312 FP16 TFLOPS (624 TFLOPS with sparsity).

  • Keng Yuan
    From less than Atom performance to beating top end processors today, that is quite a jump. And even if the performance is real, I wonder if anyone would use it outside of China...
    Reply
  • mellis
    Probably home-made with stolen technology, lol.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    mellis said:
    Probably home-made with stolen technology, lol.
    If they were thorough, they remembered to remove the Nvidia logo from the chip when they copied the plans and added their own.
    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    mellis said:
    Probably home-made with stolen technology, lol.

    If acquiring a distressed firm at bargain-basement price qualifies as stealing.
    Reply
  • Endymio
    Chung Leong said:
    If acquiring a distressed firm at bargain-basement price qualifies as stealing.
    No, industrial espionage qualifies as stealing.

    And if this chip is indeed being produced by TSMC, it will likely run afoul of the US blacklist restrictions. It may very well be that SMIC has finally been able to fully swallow and digest enough stolen fab tech to spin up its own 7nm node.
    Reply
  • gg83
    Since the design is CoWoS, are they able to get around the US blacklist? As a society we let's this happen. We were blinded by cheap manufacturing costs and didn't worry about the tech being "stolen". In quotes because we kind of gave it to them.
    Reply
  • jkflipflop98
    Do you really want the chips produced by a government that prides itself on the surveillance and suppression of it's people running in the server that your cell phone data gets piped through? This thing is going to have more backdoors than a colander.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    spongiemaster said:
    If they were thorough, they remembered to remove the Nvidia logo from the chip when they copied the plans and added their own.

    Well it's called "Big Island", so I'm assuming they abused IP from AMD's short-sighted THATIC joint venture to cobble-together a 7nm port of Hawaii.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    jkflipflop98 said:
    Do you really want the chips produced by a government that prides itself on the surveillance and suppression of it's people running in the server that your cell phone data gets piped through? This thing is going to have more backdoors than a colander.
    That depends; Is the face tracking good?
    Reply
  • Chung Leong
    Giroro said:
    Well it's called "Big Island", so I'm assuming they abused IP from AMD's short-sighted THATIC joint venture to cobble-together a 7nm port of Hawaii.

    I suspect they based the design on IP from Imagination Technologies. The Chinese government owns the company, after all. The timing seems about right. The takeover occurred in 2017 while development of this "domestic" GPU commenced in 2018. "Big Island" might be a reference to the UK.
    Reply