TSMC stopped making artificial intelligence chips for China’s Biren Technology, and it was all Biren’s own fault!
TSMC Stops Making Biren AI Chips Over US Sanctions
TSMC – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company – has suspended production of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) chips for China’s Biren Technology.
TSMC was forced to make this decision after public domain information revealed that the Biren BR100 and BR104 chips outperformed the NVIDIA A100 chip, which was used as the baseline of US sanctions.
While TSMC has not reached a conclusion on whether the top-of-the-line Biren BR100 or the slower BR104 meet or exceed US government threshold on advanced AI chip technology restrictions, it decided to stop production and supply of the Biren chips for now.
For TSMC to continue producing BR100 or BR104 chips, Biren must now prove that their chips do not offer “peak performance and chip-to-chip I/O performance equal to or greater than thresholds that are roughly equivalent to the [NVIDIA] A100“, or get an export licence from the US Department of Commerce.
And believe it or not – it was Biren Technology that created this mess for itself!
How Biren Screwed Up Its Own BR100 AI Chips
Biren, which is one of China’s most promising semiconductor design firms, earlier claimed that its AI chips that were being produced by TSMC are not covered by the latest US export restrictions.
However, its own website touts that the BR100 family of chips offers “world-class performance“, and has “improved by more than 3X” compared to mainstream rivals.
On top of that, Biren actually released a press statement on September 9, 2022, declaring that the slower BR104 was proven by the MLPerf to beat the NVIDIA A100!
Releasing such a statement less than 2 weeks after the US government ordered both AMD and NVIDIA to stop exporting their MI250 and A100 and faster AI chips to China is either amazing chutzpah, or a combination of hubris and idiocy.
Either way, the US government took notice, and TSMC came under pressure to comply with American export restrictions. Awesome PR, but stupid move, Biren…
Take a look at the benchmark results that Biren itself released into public domain, showing that the slower BR104 chip was between 27% and 58% faster than the NVIDIA A100.
With such results, the BR104 would certainly fall under the latest US tech export restrictions. No wonder TSMC quickly stopped making and supplying Biren BR100 series chips.
As powerful as the BR100 and BR104 GPGPU chips may be, they are now dead in the water as TSMC will not manufacture them anymore, and Biren Technology has no plausible alternatives for 7nm fabrication.
Biren BR100 AI Chips That TSMC Stopped Producing
The Biren BR100 and slower BR104 are General Purpose GPU (GPGPU) chips, which are targeted at artificial intelligence applications.
They are both fabricated on the TSMC 7nm process technology, and use chipset and 2.5D Chip-on-Wafer-on-Substrate (CoWoS) packaging technologies to achieve high yield, and high performance.
The Biren BR100 family of GPGPU chips supports up to eight independent virtual instances (SVI) – each physically isolated with their own hardware resources, for improved security.
Their chips are designed with a proprietary Blink high-speed GPU interconnect bus offering bandwidth of up to 448 GB/s, with the ability to connect up to 8 cards in a single node, using state-of-the-art PCI Express 5.0.
Biren Technology offers two BR100-based products – the Bili 100P OCP Accelerator Module (OAM), and the Bill 104P PCI Express accelerator card.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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