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Chinese AI chipmakers sell themselves with Nvidia benchmarks at Shanghai conference

Chinese AI chipmakers sell themselves with Nvidia benchmarks at Shanghai conference

A group of Chinese graphics processing unit (GPU) developers, NvidiaIts absence in China is the country’s largest artificial intelligence (AI) Despite facing issues with bottlenecks in production and software ecosystem, they are making appearances to promote their offerings.

Illuvatar Corex, Moore Topics, Tencent Holdings-Enflame Technology, powered by Sophgo, Huawei Technologies‘ Ascend was in the spotlight last week World Artificial Intelligence Conference There was no physical presence in Shanghai of the California-based designer of the chips against which all other AI GPUs are measured, but Nvidia’s name was constantly mentioned at the stands where Chinese chipmakers compare their products to those of the U.S. tech giant.

“China’s computing clusters are changing from being dominated by foreign GPUs to a combination of Chinese GPUs and foreign GPUs,” Li Xingyu, chief ecosystem officer at Enflame, said in a session on Friday. “There is a problem of lack of demand, a large part of computing power in China is still sitting idle.”

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“Further reducing the barriers to the use of domestic computing power is crucial to increasing the application of this power in China,” he added.

Moore Threads’ MCCX D800 AI server was showcased at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai on July 5, 2024. Photo: Che Pan alt=Moore Threads’ MCCX D800 AI server was showcased at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai on July 5, 2024. Photo: Che Pan>

Partnering with Shanghai-based chip designer Enflame, artificial intelligence solutions firm Infinigence — another startup backed by Chinese social media and video game giant Tencent — is offering computing resources using a variety of chips from other vendors, including Nvidia and Chinese GPU makers. “Companies don’t need to worry about which GPUs they use,” the company said.

Nvidia is not allowed to export its most advanced chips to China under US export restrictions. Washington has also added major Chinese chip developers to a trade blacklist, making it harder for them to find foundries to manufacture their designs. Huawei, which claims its Ascend 910B is on par with Nvidia’s A100, was first blacklisted in 2019 and is among those facing production hurdles as sanctions have tightened since then.

The area around Huawei’s booth was one of the busiest on the floor. Huawei Ascend chips are configured for open-source major language models, including Meta’s Llama2, according to a slide presentation on-site. The chips are also used to train half of China’s 70-plus major models, Huawei claimed in a presentation at the Zhongguancun Forum in May.

Enflame showed off its Cloudblazer T20 and T21 AI training chips at the show. One employee said the company’s biggest advantage over larger rivals like Huawei, Moore Threads and Biren Technology is that it is not on a US trade blacklist. That means it has access to global foundries like TSMC, which makes about 90% of the world’s most advanced chips, despite broader sanctions that limit the computing power of its chips.

Nvidia chips produced specifically for Chinese customers to bypass US restrictions also remain popular.

Nvidia is expected to ship more than 1 million H20 GPUs in China this year, generating $12 billion in sales, according to SemiAnalysis, a San Francisco-based semiconductor research firm. SemiAnalysis’ principal analyst Dylan Patel said Nvidia’s H20 still offers better performance than Huawei’s 910B.

“China is a big market with strong demand for AI, but the biggest problem is that in-house technology lags behind global competitors and is not enough to meet domestic demand,” said Robert Cheng, head of Taiwan research and Asia-Pacific hardware at BofA Global Research.

“The AI ​​GPUs that China may have are not as powerful in terms of performance as global (alternatives) and … (the Chinese supply chain) is still far behind overall,” he added.

Mainland China remained Nvidia’s third-largest market in the fiscal year ending Jan. 28, with sales from China reaching $10.3 billion, up 78 percent from a year earlier.

Additional information from Iris Deng.

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