Baidu, a Chinese web giant, has invested in StarFive, a Chinese RISC-V startup, to advance use of the open source processor design in the data center.
On Chinese social media service QQ, StarFive wrote that it would work with Baidu to promote the implementation of different forms of high-performance RISC-V products in datacenter scenarios.
The Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) model is the foundation for the open standard instruction set architecture (ISA) known as RISC-V. RISC-V is offered under open source licenses that don’t charge fees, in contrast to the majority of other ISA designs.
The RISC-V instruction set is supported by a number of well-known software toolchains, open source operating systems, and a number of organizations that are either selling or have announced RISC-V hardware.
StarFive’s post also stated that the close cooperation between the two parties will promote the process of RISC-V industrialization, accelerate the innovation of computing power in data centers, and provide new possibilities for the complex and changing demands on computing power in the AI era.
However, it’s unclear whether this indicates that Baidu is considering RISC-V CPUs or whether the company is making the investment because it wants to use the open source architecture for other purposes in its infrastructure.
StarFive already provides two RISC-V processors that, according to the company, can play a role in the datacenter. Big data applications are supposedly compatible with the 64-bit U-series. The Dubhe Series is recommended for tasks like driving a SmartNIC or serving as computational storage. StarFive asserts that Dubhe is the first RISC-V silicon to allow virtualization, which is helpful for the latter application.
Although Baidu is a recognized user of SmartNIC, it doesn’t appear that it has divulged the CPU that it employs in the devices. The company has also previously stated that US sanctions on some technology exports to China cause it minimal damage. However, executives added that Baidu has plans to create substitutes for imports that are restricted.
Four months following those comments, news that Baidu is investing funds into one of China’s top RISC-V companies has now surfaced.
Naturally, AI has long been the foundation of Baidu’s business, and the company just unveiled its ERNIE chatbot. With that disclosure, executives claimed to have revealed a novel approach to datacenter computing stacks that was created to support extensive AI deployments.