Huawei is attracting a lot of attention as one of the few Chinese companies with a significant presence in the chip space, and the China Industrial Securities computer team took a comprehensive look at Huawei's chip footprint earlier this year.
Here's the full text of their report:
1、Huawei's 30-year journey of chip self-development in retrospect
In 1991, Huawei's chip business was in its infancy, with the IC design center in charge.
At that time, Huawei was faced with the dilemma of high chip costs and small profit margins.
Its first successful chip was the SD502, which was used for multi-function interface control in switches.
In 1993, relying on EDA software purchased from overseas, Huawei successfully developed the SD509, which supported non-blocking time slot switching and was used in its first digital programmable switch, the C&C08, which became one of the world's largest-selling switches.
In 1995, the Huawei Central Research Department was set up under the Basic Business Department to take over the R&D of communication system chips.
In 2004, Huawei decided to set up HiSilicon, which started out as a digital security chip.
In 2009, the company launched a one-stop solution for low-end GSM smartphones with a chip called K3V1, which started the long road of mobile phone chip exploration.
Since then, the Huawei 2012 lab was established and HiSilicon was placed under the jurisdiction of the lab, but on the same level as the Huawei division.
After 30 years of diligent exploration, Huawei now has five series of chips.
The Kirin chips are mobile phone SoCs that integrate application and baseband processors and are widely used in the Huawei family of mobile phones.
Among the computing chips, Kunpeng is used for high-performance computing and Ascend is a commercial AI chip.
Among the communication chips, Balong and Tiangang are used for baseband and base station respectively and are creating a 5G layout.
Connectivity chips correspond to the Internet of Everything era, including Boudica and Lingxiao two major brands.
Video chips are Huawei's long-term force direction, security chips, set-top box chips occupy a large market share, chip shipments also reached tens of millions.
2, the rapid rise of computing chips: Kunpeng, Ascend
In today's digital era, the Internet of Everything has brought about explosive growth in data volume, placing higher demands on the computing power of IT infrastructures.
IDC predicts that by 2023, the global computing industry will reach $1.14 trillion in investment space, with China accounting for nearly 10% of the total, making it an important driver of the global computing industry.
To meet the demand for new computing power, Huawei has built a chip family of five subsystems around the "Kunpeng +Ascend" dual computing engine, realizing comprehensive self-development in the field of computing chips.
Huawei is the only vendor that owns five key chips, namely CPU, NPU, storage control, network connectivity, and intelligent management. We will focus on the core chip "Kunpeng +Ascend" to carry out the analysis.
Layout 1: Kunpeng series
The Kunpeng family includes processors for servers and PCs. More than a decade ago, Huawei developed a small success with its embedded CPU Hi1380, which became the beginning of the Kunpeng processors.
After two generations of Kunpeng 912 and 916, Huawei finally developed its current flagship products, the Kunpeng 920 and Kunpeng 920s, for servers and PCs respectively.
The Kunpeng processor has the advantage of "end-side cloud computing power isomorphism". Based on the ARM V8 architecture, the processor cores, microarchitecture, and chips are all developed and designed by Huawei.
More than 5 million Android applications based on the ARM instruction set are currently available in the market, which are naturally compatible with ARM servers and can be run directly without porting.
It runs with no instruction translation process, no loss of performance, and can improve performance up to 3x over x86 heterogeneous.
In January 2019, Huawei announced the Kunpeng 920, the industry's highest performance ARM architecture processor, as well as the TaiShan server and Huawei Cloud Service based on the Kunpeng 920.
The Kunpeng 920 is built on a 7nm manufacturing process. In terms of specifications, it supports 64 cores at up to 2.6GHz, integrated 8-channel DDR4, PCIe 4.0, and CCIX interfaces, and provides 640Gbps of total bandwidth.
The Kunpeng 920 focuses on low power consumption and high performance, with a SPECint Benchmark score of more than 930 at a typical main frequency, exceeding the industry benchmark by 25 percent, while the energy efficiency ratio is 30 percent better than the industry benchmark.
The previous record-holder was Fujitsu's 7nm A64X, which achieved 2.7 teraflops of performance per chip.
Layout 2: Ascend Series
AI chips help solve the problem of arithmetic power as Moore's Law fades, and the Ascend series is an important underpinning of Huawei's comprehensive AI strategy.
The Ascend 310 was announced alongside the 910 at Huawei All Connect 2018, confirming speculation that Huawei was developing an AI chip.
Aimed at edge scenarios, the Ascend 310 is efficient, flexible, and programmable. Based on a typical configuration, the Ascend 310 achieves the performance of 16 TOPS with 8-bit integer precision (INT8) and 8 TFLOPS with 16-bit floating-point (FP16), while consuming only 8W.
Based on the mass-produced Ascend 310, Huawei released Atlas 200, Atlas 300, Atlas 500, and Atlas 800 products, which are widely used in security, finance, medical, transportation, power, and automotive industries.
The Ascend 910 has a maximum power consumption of 310W and its self-developed Da Vinci architecture greatly improves its energy efficiency. The Ascend 910 achieves 512 TOPS with 8-bit integer precision and 256 TFLOPS with 16-bit floating-point precision.
The Ascend 910's test performance far outperformed the NVIDIATesla V100 and Google TPU v3.
The 910 was officially released in August 2019, marking a new phase in the execution of Huawei's AI strategy.
In the future, for different scenarios, Huawei will continue to introduce more AI processors to provide ampler, more economical, and more adaptable AI computing power, Huawei part of the research and planning of AI chips include the Ascend 610 for automated driving development, 310 upgraded from the 320 (planned for 2021) and 910 upgraded from the 920.
3, from catching up to leading SoC chips: Kirin
The mobile phone SoC (System-on-a-Chip) chip consists of an application processor (AP) and a baseband processor (BP). AP includes CPU (central processing unit), GPU (graphics processing unit), ISP (image processor), etc., responsible for the operating system, user interface, and application processing; BP includes baseband and RF part, responsible for communication signal processing.
In recent years, major chipmakers began to develop SoC chips to provide a total solution, Huawei HiSilicon also actively layout. Technically speaking, the challenge in developing SoC chips is the integration and synergy of the various components.
Huawei started with a modestly successful product, the K3V1. two-year-old HiSilicon was inspired by MediaTek and started working on a mobile phone chip in 2006, and three years later launched its first application processor, the K3V1.
However, the 110nm process lagged far behind the mainstream solutions at the time and was compatible with Windows Phone, which eventually failed to make it to market.
In 2012, K3V2 was released, the process was still relatively backward and hot, but the performance gap was narrowing, and it was mounted on the Huawei D, P, and Mate series, inspiring the improvement of chip technology.
The turnaround eventually came in 2013, when HiSilicon launched its first mobile SoC, the Kirin 910, the world's first quad-core SoC using the then-mainstream 28nm process, paired with the Mali 450MP4 GPU and integrated with its in-house Balong 710 baseband for the Huawei P6s.
Since then, Kirin 920, 925, 928, 930, 935, 950, 960, 970, 980, and 620, 650, 710, 810 for mid-range phones have been released, with process upgrades, achieving a shift from catching up to side-by-side and then to lead.
Among them, Kirin 925 was used in Huawei Mate7, with global sales of over 7 million units; Kirin 620 was used in the mid-range Honor 4X and 4C, with Honor 4X selling more than 10 million units.
The Kirin 930 marks the entry into the 64-bit era of mobile phone chips; Kirin 950, Kirin 970, and Kirin 980 are the first in the world to commercialize 16nm, 10nm, and 7nm processes, respectively.
Kirin 970 also for the first time in the SoC chip integrated artificial intelligence computing platform NPU, pioneering end-side AI-first, equipped with the chip Mate 10 shipments totaled 10 million units.
In September 2019, Huawei's latest generation of flagship chips, the Kirin 990 series, was launched, including the Kirin 990 and Kirin 990 5G chips, with the former using a 7nm process and the latter using a 7nm+ process.
The Kirin 990 5G is the world's first flagship 5G SoC, the first to integrate 5G Modem into an SoC, the first to support NSA/SA dual-architecture and TDD/FDD full-band, and the industry's first fully networked 5G SoC.
Based on Balong 5000's 5G connectivity, the Kirin 990 5G achieves a peak 5G download rate of 2.3Gbps and a peak 5G uplink rate of 1.25Gbps.
The core chips for 5G communication equipment: Balong, Tiangang.
Layout 1: Balong Series Baseband Chips
The baseband chip is used to synthesize the baseband signal to be emitted and decode the received baseband signal.
In 2007, Huawei started to develop baseband chips, as the baseband chips of Huawei's popular data card relied on Qualcomm and were often out of stock.
In 2010, Huawei launched its first TD-LTE baseband chip, the Balong 700, breaking Qualcomm's monopoly.
In 2014, on the Kirin 910, Huawei integrated the baseband chip and AP on a single SoC for the first time.
Currently, the Balong 4G series sets have shipped more than 100 million units worldwide, with a complete portfolio of products, with capabilities ranging from Cat 4 to Cat 19, corresponding to single connection rates ranging from 150Mbps to 1.6Gbps.
In February 2018, Huawei released the Balong 5G01 baseband chip, the first commercially available, 3GPP standard-based 5G chip, but larger in size.
Previously, Qualcomm had released the industry's first 5G modem, the Snapdragon X50, but it was not based on the 3GPP standard and only supported 5G networks and was not compatible with its predecessor.
In January 2019, Huawei announced the Balong 5000, a small, highly integrated modem that supports 5G and previous generation networks.
The Balong 5000 is the first to achieve industry benchmark 5G peak download rates, achieving 4.6Gbps in the Sub-6GHz (low-frequency band, the primary band for 5G) band.
It achieves 6.5Gbps in the millimeter-wave (high-frequency band, 5G's extended band) band, which is 10 times faster than the experienceable speed of 4G LTE.
Huawei said the Balong 5000 can be used in home broadband terminals, car terminals and other scenarios in addition to smartphones.
Layout 2: Tiangang series base station chipset
Tiangang is the industry's first 5G base station core chip and has achieved breakthroughs in integration, computing power, and spectrum bandwidth.
For the first time, Tiangang supports large-scale integration of active amplifiers and passive arrays at extremely low footprints, achieving a 2.5x increase in computing power.
Its extremely wide spectrum supports 200M carrier spectrum bandwidth.
The Tiangang chip revolutionizes active antenna processing units by reducing the size of base stations by more than 50 percent, reducing weight by 23 percent, reducing power consumption by 21 percent, and saving half the installation time compared to standard 4G base stations.
5、Linked chips for the Internet of Things: Boudica, Lingxiao
Layout 1: Boudica series NB-IOT chip
NB-IoT (NarrowBand Internet of Things) focuses on the low-power, wide-coverage IoT market and can be widely used in vertical industries such as smart parking, smart agriculture, remote meter reading, etc. NB-IoT is characterized by low power consumption, stable connectivity, low cost and excellent architecture optimization.
In recent years, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the three major carriers have provided support in different degrees. However, due to technical factors, the development of NB-IoT is still relatively slow, and the terminal chip is one of the core difficulties.
Huawei started NB-IoT chip research and development in 2014. 2015, the launch of chip prototypes based on pre-standard products. 2016, September, the release of the industry's first commercial NB-IoT chip Boudica 120.
Since then, the fully mature Boudica 150 supporting 3GPPR14 has been launched, enabling lower energy consumption and applications in more scenarios.
In April 2019, Huawei revealed that Boudica 120 shipments surpassed 7 million; the better-performing Boudica 150 surpassed 13 million shipments.
Huawei expects to launch Boudica200 in 2020, supporting 3GPPR15 and subsequent standards evolution, with better integration, security, and openness.
Layout 2: Lingxiao series WiFi chipset
In the real-life use of routers, problems such as dropouts, delays, and stuckness are common, and in order to solve these problems, Huawei developed the Lingxiao series of routing chips, which consists of three major product lines: routing CPUs, routing WiFi chips, and power cat chips.
In December 2018, Lingxiao chips were officially unveiled, and the Glory Routing Pro 2 is equipped with Lingxiao 5651 and Lingxiao 1151. among them, Lingxiao 5651 is a quad-core 1.4GHz CPU, and Lingxiao 1151 is a dual-band Wi-Fi chip.
At the Huawei Developer Conference 2019 (HDC2019), Huawei officially unveiled the Lingxiao WiFi-loT chip to serve Huawei's all-scenes smart living strategy. The chip will be available at the end of 2019 for home access products.
6, the video chip that starts from security highlighting the display: Honghu
Layout one: security chips
Security products require four types of chips: ISP (Image Signal Processing) chips for processing the signal collected by the front-end camera, DVR (Digital Video Recorder) SoC chips for analog audio and video digitization, encoding, compression, and storage, IPC (IP camera) SoC chips to support video analysis, NVR (Network Video Recorder) SoC chips for video data storage.
HiSilicon chip business started in the field of security, the first mass production of security chips, and thrive in competition with giants such as Texas Instruments, Broadcom.
Unlike TI's ARM+DSP architecture, HiSilicon's ARM+IVE architecture provides advantages in power consumption, cost, and computing efficiency.
HiSilicon became the world's leading IPC chip, with a market share of 70% at one point; HiSilicon also had a high market share in the other three categories of chips. HiSilicon has been working closely with Hikvision and Dahua Technology on market development for a long time.
Layout two: set-top box chips
While making great achievements in the field of security chips, HiSilicon also began to actively work on set-top box chips in 2008, and emerged in the competition with STMicroelectronics and Qualcomm, etc., and basically achieved the domestic first and the global second, second only to Broadcom.
Smart set-top-box chip program is divided into OTT and IPTV two, according to Gran Research, in 2018, China's IPTV/OTT set-top box chip program used to HiSilicon and Amlogic mainly.
Layout 3: Honghu series display chip
Honghu chips are mainly used in the smart display field which Huawei has accumulated for many years, HiSilicon launched the first 4K TV chip in 2014. Huawei 2019 revealed that the Honghu video display chips have shipped more than 40 million pieces in total.
In July 2019, Huawei released the first Honghu smart screen equipped with Honghu 818 chip. Honghu 818 adopts dual A73+dual A53 architecture CPU and 4*Mali-G51 GPU, leading decoding speed.
Honghu 818 is equipped with seven image quality technologies such as dynamic picture compensation and high dynamic range imaging and integrates Histen sound quality optimization technology, which can bring users excellent audio and picture experience.
At present, Huawei's five major chip series are going hand in hand and have made breakthrough achievements in their respective fields, successfully walking out of a "backlash" road.
Looking back to 1991, when Huawei's chip business was just starting, it was the awakening to the independence and autonomy of chips at that time that laid the foundation for today's glory.
It was in the step by step trial and error that Huawei walked out of an independent design road.
Looking into the future, with the continuous rise of China's independent innovation power, the IT industry based on the "Chinese core" is bound to usher in a huge opportunity, and Huawei, as the light of China, under the strategy of "open source and open", is expected to lead the industry chain related companies.