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The plan will see one in five Alibaba Cloud servers using their own Arm core chips by 2025.

Alibaba made a splash this week at its Aspara conference. According to a report in The Register, The company has declared that 20 percent of their cloud servers will be running on ‘homegrown’ Yitian 710 ARM CPUs by 2025.

The Yitian 710 chip, which was launched at the Aspara conference in 2021, boasts 128 Armv9-compatible CPU cores that can operate at up to 3.2 GHz. Eight DDR5 channels and 96 PCIe 5.0 lanes account for some of the 60 billion transistors on the die, which is fabbed using a 5nm process. The chips are set to power an Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instance type called g8m, which offers variations sporting 1 to 128 vCPUs. Each vCPU corresponds to a physical core.

Alibaba claimed the CPUs have already been put in service “on a large scale in the Alibaba Cloud datacenter”. They added that the CPUs were powering workloads for Alibaba “and many internet technology companies”, although none were named.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Alibaba is very keen to have the Yitian 710 seen in the same light as AWS Graviton2 server microprocessors. In other words, they want people to see Yitian as the product of a cloud operator innovating on behalf of customers, instead of a cloud operator using its own chips because US sanctions forces it to.

The likes of AWS, Microsoft, and Oracle aren’t subject to the kind of sanctions that make it harder for Chinese companies to get their hands on tech developed by US companies. Despite their wishes, Alibaba Cloud’s shift to Yitian looks to be driven as much by necessity as innovation.

It should be noted that Yitian provides actual advantages. Alibaba Cloud claims a 30 percent cost/performance boost and 60 percent energy savings compared to its x86 fleet.