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Biren processor adds twist to chip tale

By WANG YING in Shanghai and FAN FEIFEI in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-11 09:03

Shanghai-based Biren Technology introduced the BR100, its general-purpose graphics processing unit or GPGPU, on Aug 9, 2022. [Photo/birentech.com]

Shanghai-based Biren Technology introduced the BR100, its general-purpose graphics processing unit or GPGPU, on Tuesday, tapping a sector dominated by industry big names.

The BR100 is capable of producing outstanding performance that can match international giants' GPGPUs, Biren Technology said.

Industry experts said GPGPUs go beyond exclusive computation for graphics and perform computation in applications conventionally handled by the central processing unit or CPU of a computer. The use of many video cards or several graphics chips further augments the already parallel nature of graphics processing.

Biren's BR100 can offer up to 1,000 TFLOPS in 16-bit floating point operations and 2,000 TFLOPs in 8-bit fixed-point computer. (A teraflop or TFLOP rating is a direct mathematical measurement of a computer's performance, in terms of a processor's capability to calculate 1 trillion floating-point operations per second. A 5 TFLOPS computer, for example, means its processor can handle 5 trillion floating-point calculations every second on average.)

"This is the first time that a Chinese enterprise is able to deliver such numbers in global general-purpose GPU computing, and hopefully this achievement will contribute to the overall development of the nation's semiconductor technology development," said Zhang Wen, founder, chairman and CEO of Biren Technology.

The development of an ecosystem for domestically made GPGPUs and AI chips is extremely important, said Wang Yu, a professor of electronic engineering at Tsinghua University. "If we could establish a comparatively unified ecosystem that allows more users to conduct programming and applications, chip manufacturers will greatly benefit from it."

There is surging demand for GPUs in the wake of the rapid development of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing, said Li Xianjun, an associate researcher at the Institute of Industrial Economics, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China should also step up support for the integrated circuit or IC sector, Li said, adding more efforts should be made to expand the application scenarios of GPUs, which are used in data centers, smartphones, computers, virtual reality, augmented reality and extended reality devices.

China's semiconductor industry has seen robust growth in recent years, but it still lags in basic chip materials and manufacturing equipment, Li said, underscoring the significance of independent innovation.

Roger Sheng, vice-president of research at market research company Gartner, called for efforts to establish software platforms and developer communities, and to strengthen cooperation with data centers and AI service providers to further enrich the application ecosystem of GPUs.

According to Hong Zhou, co-founder and chief technology officer of Biren Technology, the BR100 is a result of chiplet-based design whereby a single chip is broken down into multiple smaller chiplets-or independent IC blocks that make up a large and complex chip.

Chip manufacturing is evolving to embrace more difficult designs and more complicated processing. This in turn is causing costs to continue to rise, a research report by Everbright Securities stated.

Against such a backdrop, chiplets are acquiring importance as they can improve productivity and yields, lower design complexity and help cut costs of both design and manufacturing.

A Zheshang Securities report expressed a similar view, noting that as an important replacement of conventional chips, chiplets may bring new opportunities to the domestic semiconductor industrial chain.

Shares of companies that make chiplets led the rise in Chinese stock markets on Monday and Tuesday, and the sector remained active on Wednesday, Chinese Business News reported.

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