Chinese AI chip makers sell themselves at Shanghai conference with Nvidia comparisons

A bunch of Chinese graphics processing unit (GPU) builders are profiting from Nvidia’s absence in China at the nation’s largest artificial intelligence (AI) present to advertise their choices, though they face issues associated to manufacturing and software program ecosystem bottlenecks.
Iluvatar Corex, Moore Threads, Tencent Holdings-backed Enflame Expertise, Sophgo, Huawei Technologies’ Ascend had been the centre of consideration final week at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, the place the California-based designer of the chips in opposition to which all different AI GPUs are measured had no bodily presence. Nvidia’s title, nonetheless, was invoked consistently at the cubicles of Chinese chip makers evaluating their very own choices to these of the US tech big.

“China’s computing clusters are altering from being foreign-GPU-dominated to a mixture of Chinese GPUs and overseas ones,” Enflame chief ecosystem officer Li Xingyu stated throughout a session on Friday. “There’s a drawback of a scarcity of demand, a lot of the computational energy in China nonetheless sits idle.”

“Additional reducing the boundaries to utilizing home-grown computational energy is vital to growing its utility in China,” he added.

Moore Threads’ MCCX D800 AI server displayed at the World Synthetic Intelligence Conference in Shanghai on July 5, 2024. Picture: Che Pan

Cooperating with Shanghai-based chip designer Enflame, AI options agency Infinigence – one other start-up backed by Chinese social media and video gaming big Tencent – is providing compute sources that use a wide range of chips from Nvidia and different distributors, together with Chinese GPU makers. “Firms don’t want to fret about which GPUs they use,” the corporate stated.

Nvidia shouldn’t be allowed to export its most superior chips to China underneath US export restrictions. Washington has additionally added main Chinese chip builders to a commerce blacklist, making it onerous for them to seek out foundries to fabricate their designs. Huawei – which has claimed its Ascend 910B is on par with Nvidia’s A100 – is amongst these dealing with manufacturing hurdles, because it was initially blacklisted in 2019 and has seen sanctions tighten since then.

The realm round Huawei’s sales space was one of many busiest on the ground. Huawei Ascend chips are configured for open-source giant language fashions together with Meta’s Llama2, in accordance with a slide presentation on-site. The chips are additionally used for coaching half of China’s greater than 70 giant fashions, Huawei beforehand claimed in a presentation at the Zhongguancun Discussion board in Might.

Enflame showcased its Cloudblazer T20 and T21 AI-training chips at the present. An worker stated that the corporate’s greatest benefit over larger rivals comparable to Huawei, Moore Threads and Biren Expertise is that it’s not on the US commerce blacklist. This implies it has entry to world foundries like TSMC, which makes roughly 90 per cent of the world’s most superior chips, regardless of broader sanctions that restrict the computational energy of its chips.

Nvidia chips tailor-made for Chinese purchasers to get round US restrictions are additionally nonetheless proving widespread.

Nvidia is anticipated to ship greater than 1 million H20 GPUs in China this 12 months, racking up US$12 billion in gross sales, in accordance with San Francisco-based semiconductor analysis agency SemiAnalysis. Dylan Patel, chief analyst at SemiAnalysis, stated Nvidia’s H20 nonetheless presents higher efficiency than Huawei’s 910B.

“China is a big market with robust demand for AI, however the greatest drawback is that the in-house expertise is behind their world friends and received’t be sufficient to fulfill the home demand,” stated Robert Cheng, head of Taiwan analysis and Asia-Pacific {hardware} at BofA International Analysis.

“The AI GPUs China can have usually are not as robust as world [alternatives] performance-wise, and … [the Chinese supply chain] typically remains to be far behind,” he added.

Mainland China remained Nvidia’s third-largest market within the monetary 12 months ended January 28, with gross sales from China up 78 per cent 12 months on 12 months to US$10.3 billion.

Extra reporting by Iris Deng.

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