Like most company communications, how firms speak about themselves needs to be taken with a few kilos of salt. The worst are usually simplistically self-aggrandizing. But different examples can provide significant insights into a company’s plans and self-perception.
That’s significantly true following vital adjustments in management, such because the January announcement that Pat Gelsinger (then CEO of VMware) would change Bob Swan as Intel’s CEO. On July 26 on the “Intel Accelerated” occasion, Gelsinger, Dr. Ann Kelleher, SVP and GM of Intel Expertise Growth and different firm executives revealed a roadmap for brand spanking new merchandise that shall be delivered by 2025 and past. What Pat Gelsinger and his crew mentioned is definitely price contemplating, however how they talked about additionally it is intriguing.
The detailing of Intel’s new course of and packaging improvements started with a daring disclaimer by Gelsinger. “The trade has lengthy acknowledged that conventional nanometer-based course of node naming stopped matching the precise gate-length metric in 1997.” In different phrases, the nanometer (or “nm”) associated advertising and marketing phrases and rhetoric that silicon producers have relied on for 20+ years has reached the top of its helpful life because it doesn’t meaningfully replicate or describe semiconductor efficiency.
To deal with that, Gelsinger stated Intel will make use of 5 new node names and related improvements for Core and Xeon merchandise launched by 2025 and past. Intel 7, Intel 4, and Intel 3 will leverage current FinFet transistor optimizations and subsequent gen excessive ultraviolet (EUV) manufacturing instruments, leading to a close to 50% enhance in efficiency per watt between now and 2H 2023.
Intel can also be engaged on subsequent gen EUV; Numerical Excessive Aperture (Excessive NA) EUV that shall be utilized in future merchandise. These embrace Intel 20A which is deliberate to ramp in 2024 as the corporate enters what Gelsinger referred to as the “angstrom period” of semiconductor manufacturing with RibbonFET, its first new transistor structure since 2011.
RibbonFET is designed to ship markedly sooner switching speeds with the identical drive present as a number of fins however in a smaller footprint. The brand new chips can even incorporate one other Intel innovation; PowerVia, a bottom energy supply expertise that optimizes sign transmission by eliminating energy routing on the entrance facet of the wafer. Intel 18A (scheduled for 2025) will use the identical applied sciences to ship one other vital efficiency increase.
Packaging and accomplice potatoes
Packaging is an more and more essential difficulty for Intel, particularly contemplating the IDM 2.0 technique that marks a big effort by the corporate to promote Intel Foundry Providers (IFS) choices to “fabless” semiconductor clients. IFS is a brand new standalone foundry enterprise led by Dr. Randhir Thakur, who will report on to Gelsinger. At Intel Accelerated, Gelsinger famous that AWS has signed on to develop into IFS’s first buyer.
On the packaging facet, Intel will proceed to leverage the EMIB (embedded multi-die interconnect bridge) 2.5D embedded bridge options it launched in 2017 and Foveros, a wafer-level packaging functionality that permits 3D wafer stacking. Intel additionally introduced Foveros Omni, a extremely versatile subsequent gen expertise that shall be prepared for quantity manufacturing in 2023, and Foveros Direct (additionally obtainable in 2023) which enhances Foveros Omni by enabling an order of magnitude enhance in interconnect density.
Together with its course of and packaging improvements, Intel highlighted notable new future-focused collaborations, together with strategic partnerships with ASML on the event of Excessive NA FUV, and with Qualcomm which plans to make use of the brand new Intel 20A course of expertise.
Intel emphasised that its course of and packaging breakthroughs have been primarily developed at firm services in Oregon and Arizona, highlighting the corporate’s place as the one modern semiconductor participant with U.S.-based analysis and growth and manufacturing capabilities.
Intel additionally famous that its new and next-gen applied sciences have been developed in shut collaboration with companions in each the U.S. and Europe, which the corporate stated are “key to bringing foundational improvements from the lab to high-volume manufacturing.”
So, what’s the takeaway from all this? Bombastic company rhetoric or proof of considerable advances in Intel’s present efforts and future plans?
I’d argue the latter. In live performance with the March announcement (the place, together with the IFS enterprise, Gelsinger enumerated deliberate enhancements for Intel’s merchandise and fabs), this newest announcement qualifies because the second half of a “right here’s the place we’re going/right here’s how we’ll get there” one-two punch.
Some may demure, noting that Intel’s plans require the on-time supply of quite a few, extremely complicated new and considerably up to date applied sciences and manufacturing processes, any of which could slip or stumble alongside the best way.
That’s a legitimate view, however two factors undercut it. First, Pat Gelsinger is a considerably totally different chief than Intel has seen in a really very long time. He’s deeply technically astute and is aware of (as proven by his 11+ years at EMC and VMware) make a great firm nice. Gelsinger has a popularity as a good however rigorous chief who calls for honesty and transparency, and he has a historical past of selecting crew members who show comparable traits. Depend on him and Intel to catch and deal with points earlier than they develop into vital issues.
Second, the brand new partnerships and the client that Intel highlighted in its announcement counsel that the corporate has made believers out of some vital gamers. Qualcomm’s plans to make use of the brand new Intel 20A course of expertise is a notable vote of confidence. Given ASML’s management in international semiconductor manufacturing gear and applied sciences, it’s onerous to think about a greater accomplice for Intel to collaborate with on Excessive NA FUV. Signing up AWS as the primary buyer for IFS seems to be like each a big win and a critical shot throughout the bows of third-party foundries, like TSMC and Samsung.
Checked out one other method, if Intel’s March announcement centered on strategic imaginative and prescient, this roadmap to 2025 and past, dialogue of latest and in-development options and revealing of latest companions and clients was all about sensible supply. Intel is aware of the place it desires to go, and has the motive, means and management to get there. The subsequent 5 years needs to be useful for Intel’s semiconductor clients and instructive for its rivals.