Because NVIDIA is buying arm, many technology giants are looking for alternatives to the UK company ARM processor, and Amazon is one of the new representatives.
Amazon has reportedly decided to support the free open source solution risc-v to explore the possibility of replacing arm with it. The report further points out that Amazon devices are looking for engineers with risc-v experience in several jobs released in recent weeks.
Risc-v, born in 2010, is an open source RISC architecture that is suitable for creating microprocessors and microcontrollers. This open source architecture allows developers to develop and use them for free, including commercial implementations directly on silicon chips or FPGA configurations. It has built-in function, expandable instruction list, and is suitable for a wide range of applications.
In order to develop and promote risc-v, the Zurich based risc-v International Foundation was established in 2015, and since 2018, the risc-v foundation has been working closely with the Linux foundation.
Although the processor based on its design has been installed in almost all smartphones and billions of other electronic devices in the world (842 arm chips per second will be shipped on average in 2020), many still believe that risc-v poses an imminent threat to the arm. Because the open source code chip architecture allows companies to develop compatible chips without having to pay for all kinds of expenses as they do with arm chips. For example, arnd bermann, the leading developer of Linux, believes that by 2030, there will still be three major architectures in the market: arm, risc-v and x86.
Many experts believe that risc-v will take years to become an important opponent in the architecture field. However, due to NVIDIA's acquisition of arm, it has increased the interest of risc-v and accelerated its development. Because some companies believe the deal will threaten the neutrality that arm is proud of. Companies such as Google and Qualcomm have also contributed to the development of risc-v.
For Amazon, their entry also makes sense.
Amazon has invested in developing its own chips, such as server chips, AI chips for the data center where Amazon Web services is located, and arm chips used in Alexa echo speakers and kindle e-books. These areas are opportunities for risc-v.
"Every company that studies chips is optimistic about risc-v to some extent," said Jay Goldberg, former chip development director and analyst.
The telegraph suggests Amazon is interested in risc-v because it can quickly adjust its chips to its own needs, rather than because it wants to save the licensing costs for developing arm chips.
Amazon's core making process
From previous reports, Amazon has involved the arm server chip, graviton, machine learning chip infrantia, and they have invested in wiliot, which focuses on wireless technology.
Wiliot, founded in 2017 by former Intel employees, called it able to provide chips that use environmental energy instead of electricity. It is understood that wiliot's chip products adopt arm architecture, which is like stamps in size. Through the built-in Bluetooth antenna, data can be transmitted to nearby receiving devices, and then sent to the cloud by these receiving devices for subsequent operation. Therefore, the chip can be operated without power supply. Besides, it can also measure the temperature, air pressure, location and other data around the environment.
Amazon has invested in syntiant, an AI chip startup. It is said that syntiant, founded in 2017, is an AI chip research company based in erwan, California, which is committed to building machine learning platform to provide solutions for semiconductor research.
Unlike the traditional processor architecture, the neural decision processor (NDPs) of synitant adopts a unique analog neural network system, which uses very low energy consumption for large-scale parallel computing, and its application scope includes hearing aids, Internet of things, smart speakers and mobile phones, which provides effective in-depth learning medium for battery power supply equipment.
As early as 2016, Amazon developed an arm architecture processor chip called Alpine. It is said that the chip can be used on some devices with low power consumption outside the smartphone. Most importantly, Amazon also put its own logo on its chip and sold it to hardware manufacturers and data centers, where ASUS, Netgear, a network service provider and storage server provider, synology, are their customers.
For Amazon, their main chip technology is from Annapurna labs, an Israeli chip manufacturer they acquired in 2015.
Founded in 2011, Annapurna labs is a company that mainly produces integrated platform on chip and subsystem for network, storage and security devices. In 2015, Amazon, the Internet giant, paid $350million to buy Annapurna labs, speeding up their core building path. And looking forward, even Amazon bought Texas Instruments mobile chip Department message.