Baidu ordered artificial intelligence chips from Huawei this year, two people familiar with the matter said, confirming that U.S. pressure is leading the Chinese to accept the company’s products as an alternative to Nvidia’s.
One of those people said that Baidu, one of China’s leading artificial intelligence companies, which operates the Large Ernie Language Model (LLM), made its request in August, ahead of the U.S. government’s adoption of widely anticipated new rules that in October have tightened restrictions on exports of chips and chip tools to China, including those from US chip giant Nvidia.
Baidu has ordered 1,600 Ascend AI 910B chips from Huawei Technologies – which the Chinese company developed as an alternative to Nvidia’s A100 chip – for 200 servers, the source said, adding that as of October, Huawei has delivered more than 60% of the order. or about 1,000 tokens, for Baidu.
The second person said the total order value was about 450 million yuan ($61.83 million) and that Huawei was expected to deliver all the chips by the end of the year. Both people declined to be identified because details of the settlement are confidential.
While the order is small compared to the thousands of chips that top Chinese technology companies have historically ordered from Nvidia, the sources said it was significant because it showed how some companies could move away from the U.S. company.
Baidu, along with Chinese companies like Tencent and Alibaba, is known to be a long-time customer of Nvidia. Previously, Baidu was not known as a Huawei customer in the field of artificial intelligence chips.
While Huawei’s Ascend chips are still considered far inferior to Nvidia’s in terms of performance, the first source said they are the most high-end domestic option available in China.
“Huawei has ordered 910B chips to prepare for a future where it can no longer get it from Nvidia,” the first source said.
Baidu and Huawei did not respond to requests for comment. Nvidia declined to comment.
indicates that it has been collaborating with Baidu since 2020 to make its AI platform compatible with Huawei hardware. In August, the two companies said they would strengthen compatibility between Baidu’s Ernie AI model and Huawei’s Ascend chips.
Baidu has developed its own line of Kunlun AI chips, which the company claims supports large-scale AI computing, but the company has primarily relied on Nvidia’s A100 chip to power its LLM.
After the United States imposed rules last year that prevented Nvidia from selling its A100 and H100 chips to China, the company released new documents about the A100 and H100 chips.
A800 and H800 chips
as alternatives for Chinese customers, including Baidu. Nvidia can no longer sell these chips to China due to the October rules.
OPPORTUNITY FOR HUAWEI
Analysts predicted last month that US restrictions would allow Huawei to expand into its $7 billion domestic market. The company has been subject to US export controls since 2019.
The order adds to signs of technological advances for Huawei, as Beijing invests in its domestic semiconductor industry to help it catch up with foreign counterparts and urges state-owned companies to replace foreign technologies with domestic alternatives.
Huawei attracted global attention in August when it unannounced a new smartphone that analysts say uses domestically developed processors using advanced semiconductor technology, highlighting the progress the company has made in chip development despite sanctions.
In September, Reuters reported that Huawei’s in-house chip design unit HiSilicon began shipping newly developed Chinese-made processors for surveillance cameras to customers in 2023, in another sign of a comeback. ($1 = 7.2782 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Yelin Mo, Zhang Yan and Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Josh Ye in Hong Kong; Writing by Gerry Doyle)