Author Yang Fan edited peace of mind
On October 10th, Huawei's full-featured 2018 conference was screened in the AI world, and the Huawei supplier & mdash;— chip design company Cambrian attracted a lot of discussion. At this conference, Huawei first explained its AI strategy to the external system, and launched a full-stack full-scenario AI solution and two high-performance AI chips, the Soaring 910 and the Soaring 310.
At the other end of the argument, the Cambrian has been committed to providing terminal AI processor IP and cloud smart chips, which has a certain degree of overlap with the market that Huawei's current AI strategy wants to target. Huawei is based on fully self-made AI calculations. The architecture of the upgrade program also adopts the cloud + end strategy. The Cambrian previously provided the AI core architecture in the NPU (Neural Network Unit) for the Huawei Kirin 970 chip, and it is a cooperative relationship with Huawei.
The outside world is curious, will Huawei, which is pushing the AI strategy, still need the Cambrian in the future? Is Huawei and the Cambrian really like the outside world, will it change from a cooperative relationship to a competitor, and what is the commercialization of the AI unicorn Cambrian?
Cambrian positioned itself as an independent chip company, providing downstream manufacturers with terminal AI processor IPs of different sizes, different application scenarios, and cloud smart chips covering different processing powers of inference and training.
At the beginning of September 2017, Huawei released the long-rumored “Artificial Intelligence Chip” & ldquo;——Kirin 970 (Kirin 970) at the IFA 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. This is “the world's first mobile AI chip”. The chip integrates the IP of the Cambrian 1A processor as its core artificial intelligence processing unit (NPU—— Neural Network Processing Unit).
However, the market's statement about Huawei's own AI has not been broken. Huawei's AI architecture & ldquo; Da Vinci has also been rumored for a long time. At the recent full-connect conference, Xu Zhijun made his first public response. He said that (Da Vinci) is based on our understanding of artificial intelligence and our needs. The Cambrian is also very good, but can't support the full scene we need.
Xu Zhijun said that Huawei needs all the support from the cloud to the edge, to the end, to various IoT terminals, so it is necessary to create a new architecture to achieve the ultimate power demand and ultimate computing power. Full coverage.
In fact, when the Kirin 970 chip was released, Huawei’s cooperation with the Cambrian was an understatement; Cambrian wrote in his own official website that the world’s first artificial smartphone chip with the Cambrian 1A processor was integrated. Huawei Unicorn 970 officially released and launched large-scale commercial use in Huawei Mate 10 mobile phones.
At the end of August this year, Huawei released the new generation flagship processor Kirin 980 with dual-core NPU, equipped with an optimized version of Cambrian 1A, but which optimized version was adopted, Huawei did not explain. In this regard, the relevant person in charge of Kirin 980 chip told the media that Huawei originally did not intend to promote, but relied on word-of-mouth marketing, because “the consumer knows how good it is if they use it”.
In this regard, some people close to Huawei said that Cambrian is only one of Huawei's suppliers, Huawei's approach should be in line with the provisions of the cooperation between the two sides, otherwise Cambrian can sue Huawei.
The industry also voices that with the official release of Huawei's rising IP and DaVinci architecture, the Kirin 900 series processor will soon integrate its own rising IP instead of the Cambrian NPU to achieve complete cutting with the Cambrian. And even become a direct competitor of the Cambrian. The Cambrian AI architecture looks more like an emergency product during the transition period of Huawei AI. This may be one reason why Huawei is relatively low-key and unwilling to promote cooperation with the Cambrian.
“This incident (Da Vinci architecture) is expected”, the founder and CEO of Cambrian Chen Tianshi recently publicly responded that “if Huawei’s capable and platform-oriented giants are not planning to research AI themselves” The chip can only show that the AI chip is not important enough. ”
However, Chen Tianshi denied the competition between Cambrian and Huawei. He said that the cooperation with Huawei is still continuing. Huawei’s peak performance of 16T is not competing with the 40T peak MLU100 released by Cambrian in May this year. Because the two scenarios are different —— the former is mainly the edge end, while the latter is the cloud, and the peak performance is also different.
The low-key Cambrian has been highly sought after in the Tier 1 capital market. Since its establishment, it has attracted investment from a number of well-known investment institutions and Internet giants. After the A round of financing in 2017, it was the first to enter the unicorn gate of the global AI chip field. In May 2018, Cambrian Technology announced the completion of hundreds of millions of dollars in Series B financing. Its overall post-investment valuation was $2.5 billion.
Today, after the AI investment boom, artificial intelligence companies have come to the use of performance to prove the strength, when the investors have to explain.
The discussion about Huawei's cutting and direct competition with Cambrian has attracted much attention to the commercialization of Cambrian.
Cambrian terminal processor IP products have been derived from 1A, 1H, 1M and other models, covering the range of chips for smart phones, security surveillance, wearable devices, drones and smart driving.
The Cambrian told all-weather technology, its end customers are mainly SOC manufacturers, and currently customers include China's top SoC chip companies such as Huawei Hisilicon, Ziguang Zhanrui, Morningstar (MStar)/Xingyi Semiconductor. The smart camera of the Cambrian IP customer MStar/Xingyi Semiconductor has also been mass-produced and shipped, and other customers' products will be shipped. Headquartered in Taiwan, China, MStar is a world-renowned home appliance embedded IC chip manufacturer.
The Cambrian MLU100 and MLU200 mainly serve the intelligent processing requirements of the cloud server, focusing on the two purposes of reasoning and training. In this respect, the companies of the Cambrian and the Chinese Academy of Sciences —— Zhongke Shuguang, Zhongke Chuangda have close cooperation. Zhongke Shuguang used the Cambrian architecture to create a server optimized for reasoning applications. In addition, Lenovo and Inspur also released AI server products equipped with Cambrian cloud chips.
However, the competition facing the Cambrian is also very intense.
In the field of smart phones, in addition to Huawei's own AI strategy, Xiaomi is also self-developing chips, with its own “澎湃 澎湃 rd rd ” series processors; other mobile phone manufacturers such as VIVO, OPPO, etc., have chosen Qualcomm Snapdragon series or The old giant products such as MediaTek. Apple and Samsung have already entered the stage of closed self-development. It may be difficult for the Cambrian to continue to expand its market share.
In the field of security monitoring, Cambrian and Huawei Haisi, Shenjian Technology, Beijing Junzheng, Guokewei, etc. grabbed the same piece of cake and stifled for a long time. The rising star is also a constant source of competition.
In the field of drones, Qualcomm, Intel, NVIDIA, Lianxin, Huawei Hisilicon, Samsung and other giants have already divided most of the market.
In addition to Huawei, Ali, Baidu, Gree, etc. are all doing their own AI chips. As the giants enter the game, how can Cambrian as an independent chip company find its own living space, which may be more challenging now.