ByteDance invades the field of chip design

by nativetechdoctor
3 minutes read

owner TikTok is opening 31 chip design jobs, joining domestic rivals Big Tech as the Chinese government strives to promote semiconductor self-sufficiency.

According to South China Morning Post, ByteDance recently confirmed that it is recruiting semiconductor talent, but said it will not be involved in chip production and that the construction of a chip group is still in the preliminary stages. The Beijing-based social media giant is exploring the possibility of designing application-specific chips for private use, to support growing computing needs in its services.

The job board on ByteDance shows 31 related listings, with positions spanning the entire chip design cycle. These include core design, intellectual property (IP) testing, and system-on-chip (SoC) extraction, a key process for uncovering defects before mass production.

unicorn technology is also recruiting “back-end chip design engineers”, requiring candidates to have experience in 12 nanometers (nm) and 7nm process advanced chip manufacturing. Other job listings require experience in electronic design automation (EDA) tools and digital IP core design based on ARM (Advanced RISC Machine), a family of RISC-like architectures for computer processors.

ByteDance is the latest name to join a growing list of technology companies pouring resources into semiconductor development, as Beijing seeks to reduce its reliance on foreign technology. The mainland’s biggest tech giants joined the race, which included Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding. Both of these companies, along with ByteDance, have large cloud computing operations.

“The big cloud companies are investing in chips to save costs, by using ARM-based chips. Instead of all-in-one chips from Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA, cloud providers in China are trying to build AI accelerators that are purpose-built to save costs and get a better performance across the cloud. per watt,” said Sravan Kundojjala, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.

Custom chips are also increasingly important for smartphone manufacturers. While Huawei Technologies’ HiSilicon has been hampered by US sanctions, Xiaomi and Oppo have stepped up efforts in the field of semiconductor design.

However, China’s reliance on foreign technology remains high, as advanced chip design tools are mainly developed by American companies and China cannot mass-produce chips using manufacturing technology. The most advanced node process is less than 10nm. “Cloud providers don’t completely design the chip because they don’t have all the IP and knowledge base,” said Mr. Kundojjala.

According to Mr. Kundojjala, such companies will often work closely with an outside unit specializing in the design of application-specific integrated circuit chips (ASICs). Big names in this space include Broadcom, Marvell, MediaTek, and Faraday, all of which are based outside the mainland.

As for the EDA tool, Chinese chip designers mainly obtained a license to use the tool developed by the US supplier Synopsys and Cadence. They also rely on the Dutch company ASML for lithography systems as the “backbone” of the production line. In addition, they rely on Japanese suppliers for necessary materials such as high-end optics used in the lithography process.

China’s efforts to catch up with semiconductor leaders such as Taiwan, South Korea, and the US have attracted the attention of the Washington administration. According to Reuters, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has told senators that a preliminary vote is expected this week on a bill to deal with China’s competitiveness, focusing on China. into $52 billion to support the semiconductor manufacturing industry in the United States. According to Bloomberg, the US is also pushing the Netherlands to ban ASML Holding from selling semiconductor manufacturing technology to China.

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