Introduction

Earlier this year, a little-known Chinese company has emerged as a potential suitor for AMD, the US-based chief rival Intel. This company, Loongson, share common roots with Lenovo, the world’s largest PC maker and quietly amassed a war chest rumored 120 billion yuan (about $ 18.8bn, £ 12.1bn, AU $ 26.3bn).

Massive bounty that it might want to use to take on the global market for microprocessors (CPU or processor to the rest of us), which is currently dominated by Intel and ARM. We caught up with the president Loongson, Weiwu Hu to discuss the company’s plans.

(Thanks A.Voica from Imagination Technologies for helping making this interview)

Weiwu Hu, the President of Loongson

TechRadar Pro: What kind of computer do you use every day

Weiwu Hu: [I use] is a laptop that uses our Loongson processor. I use computers and laptops with processors Loongson for my daily work for more than 5 years. In fact, the answers to the Q & A were written on the same Loongson platform that you see in the picture

TRP :. Can you tell us more about Loongson, where it comes from, why it was started and, as a big company

WH : We initially started in 2001 as a research processor center, which was part of the Institute of Computer Technology (ICT) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). In 2010, in accordance with the requirements of the ICT-CAS, we decided to create Loongson Technology Corporation Ltd. with a clear mission to bring the fruits of our research work to the market.

We soon discovered that we need to refocus our research to fully meet the requirements of the computer market. For example, research in the field of ICT promoted the use of multi-core architectures for chips, but the consumer market requires a dual-core or quad-core products, which were missing from our plan.

In addition, we found that there was more work to do to improve our Loongson processor. Thus, we have worked hard to improve the micro-architecture dramatically. Today, we are very pleased to announce that the sophistication of micro-architecture Loongson GS464E is on par with Intel, Ivy Bridge, which allows us to solve many of the requirements of the market.

We have about 300-400 of hardware and software engineers developing our technology core processor, but also software and toolchains, rivaling the size and scope of many processors. In addition, our ecosystem of our customers and partners has grown rapidly to more than 10,000 hardware and software engineers to develop products based on our technology CPU

TRP :. Why did you choose MIPS, but not ARM, like most other providers

WH: Our goal is to build a new ecosystem that will challenge existing suppliers processor. MIPS architecture provides a way for us to differentiate and quickly achieve our goal. MIPS provides a very high performance at low power consumption and a smaller area compared to its direct competitors. Choosing MIPS64, we also have access to one of the most mature 64-bit software ecosystem in the industry. In addition, the license MIPS architecture is more flexible than the ARM. For example, customers can add new MIPS instructions UDI (user interface defined)

Loongson PC

TRP :. You also developed its own distribution of Linux. Why is that the case

WH: First, we try to contribute as much as possible for the community of open source. For example, Loongson Technology is one of 14 companies operating in the (Google, Chrome), and contributed almost 100,000 lines of code of the project. Secondly, we have some partner of the operating system, and many PCs and servers for customers in China, who prefer to use LOONGNIX, our domestic distribution. Maintenance of all these partners on one approach would be ineffective, so we decided to create and maintain LOONGNIX serve them concurrently. It also allows us to cooperate with our partners and constantly improve the ecosystem Loongson processor together

TRP :. Your note appears on the desktop, server, and embedded. What about a mobile phone

WH: The most important factor for us is to focus on specific sectors where we believe we can make a difference, rather than to hit all Possible markets At present, we plan for development, which stretches for 2020 we plan to support clients in the desktop, server and embedded markets. We also have the processors used in mobile devices running Android and OS Linux, but only for certain very precise application. Our goal is to start with the markets that require the mentioned good performance embedded, then develop in the market with more high-performance applications that run on general purpose operating system. We plan to expand in an open computing market after 2020

Loongson CPUs are used in supercomputers as well

TRP: Could you tell us more about LoongBT and how it can help developers [?19459011]

WH: LoongBT is a set of instructions that have been added to speed up the MIPS binary translation of x86 and ARM-applications running on Loongson processor. 90% of the instructions x86, ARM and MIPS ISAs have the same core functionality. Therefore, the implementation of binary translation mechanism of the x86 instruction on MIPS and ARM has been a smooth process, leading to high efficiency. But we found that the other 10% can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the binary translation – code will run up to 10 times slower, with no hardware acceleration. LoongBT realizes acceleration of 10% x86 and ARM instructions, using the MIPS instruction format to translate all the instructions the x86 and ARM to MIPS is very effective, and more than 10 times faster. Of course, the structure of the execution time, such as registers and TLB should be improved, and that the improvement is part LoongBT.

On top of these additions ISA, we are also working on the level of API, such as Java, JavaScript, QT, art, etc. We hope to produce efficient software package, which provides the API, which can run on multiple operating systems such as Linux, Android and Windows. We develop software binary translation, and provide it to our partners freely. We believe competition in the processor design is a good thing for both suppliers and customers, and that everyone should have access to an open computing ecosystem, which is free of any monopoly. We hope to remove the barrier between different ecosystems with this improved technology

TRP :. As you can see on the world market for processors developing over the next 12 months. Any tendency (HSA, lower power consumption, greater role of the GPU, etc.)

WH: As I said, we are now mainly focusing on applications and use cases for certain industries. Loongson processor is still a small company, and, what is more important for us to work closely with our customers to understand their requirements and not simply follow the global trends. We found that if we work hard with partners and customers to build this new ecosystem, we can create a very optimized solution that is much better than multiple common systems of the major providers – even if each part of the system may not be so good, as his main counterpart

TRP :. What is your relationship with AMD

WH: Loongson processors use HyperTransport system bus [of AMD], and some motherboards Loongson use chipsets AMD.

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