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Question How will Covid-19 affect the cpu industry??? Will there be a lasting effect?

iamgenius

Senior member
Jun 6, 2008
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We have been seeing excellent achievements by AMD lately, and the giant intel just can't keep up with them in certain areas. The long gone competition is back since ryzen and I have been enjoying it. I was looking at the RyzenThreadripper3990X to build my next virtualization behemoth, or at least the 3970X. I probably don't need all this power but it is just great having such gear. I should start building this machine next year. What will happen to prices, availability during this unexpected pandemic? What will happen to intel's new process? Will they still be able to pull it off in the scheduled time even though they delayed it many times before without such difficulties? Workforce cut and working in shifts or working remotely, I wonder how all this will impact Intel's roadmap.


Thanks.
 

senttoschool

Golden Member
Jan 30, 2010
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You can expect delays on the roadmap because it's difficult for engineers to work from home.

As for supply, you should expect a decrease in production. However, you should also expect a decrease in demand as businesses and consumers save cash. So it remains to be seen whether there will be a shortage. If I have to bet money, there will be more supply than demand.
 

DrMrLordX

Lifer
Apr 27, 2000
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The only real upside I see for the semicon world is that the need to work from home and the need to support Internet infrastructure is going to lead to at least a short uptick in demand for hardware.
 
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Nothingness

Platinum Member
Jul 3, 2013
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You can expect delays on the roadmap because it's difficult for engineers to work from home.
The company I work for (CPU design among other things) has fully switched to working from home and we are right on schedule on all projects from small ones to large ones.

It's quite easy for design engineers to work from home. What makes you think it's not the case?
 

jpiniero

Diamond Member
Oct 1, 2010
9,147
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Desktop sales are going to absolutely tank. Laptop sales are TBD, there likely will be some buying so workers that had desktops can work from home... but there's going to be sooo many layoffs.
 

senttoschool

Golden Member
Jan 30, 2010
1,536
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The company I work for (CPU design among other things) has fully switched to working from home and we are right on schedule on all projects from small ones to large ones.

It's quite easy for design engineers to work from home. What makes you think it's not the case?
I just presumed that certain aspects of CPU design needs special machinery.
 

senttoschool

Golden Member
Jan 30, 2010
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Design itself is purely "software". But you need huge clusters and big machines for some parts of the design, all of which can be reached through VPN while working from home :)
This is going off topic but how do you know the that performance of your design is going to be better on software? Is performance simulated? If so, how accurate is the simulation?
 

Nothingness

Platinum Member
Jul 3, 2013
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This is going off topic but how do you know the that performance of your design is going to be better on software? Is performance simulated? If so, how accurate is the simulation?
There are several ways to assess performance:
  • Performance models which are more or less accurate depending on your needs. Development on these can be started years before hardware availability and they help making decisions on the micro-architecture. As time goes on, and as RTL development progresses, these models can be made more accurate but their speed degrades a lot. (I have working on developing such models for the last 20 years.).
  • Once you have synthesizable RTL (VHDL/Verilog) you can do software simulation (very slow), and emulators/FPGA runs (much faster). These are fully accurate as long as all of the system is simulated (that is you need the real memory controller, you need to simulate DRAM latency, etc.).
  • Once implementation is done, and masks done you can then wait for a fab to deliver chips and make real tests :)
 

Atari2600

Golden Member
Nov 22, 2016
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It's quite easy for design engineers to work from home. What makes you think it's not the case?
Us engineers were born for social distancing. :D


But seriously, if you were standing up a new project, it'd be more difficult without all the quick 2 minute interactions an office brings, however keeping an existing one rolling isn't so hard.
 
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iamgenius

Senior member
Jun 6, 2008
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Anecdotally
I just presumed that certain aspects of CPU design needs special machinery.
I was thinking the same thing
Design itself is purely "software". But you need huge clusters and big machines for some parts of the design, all of which can be reached through VPN while working from home :)
Are you saying that you will be controlling the machinery from home to continue the production of CPUs ? That's interesting
 

Nothingness

Platinum Member
Jul 3, 2013
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Are you saying that you will be controlling the machinery from home to continue the production of CPUs ? That's interesting
No, sorry if that wasn't clear. I mean you can design a CPU with software only, until you have to make the masks at which point you will need someone controlling machines (though I don't know how many people are physically required at that point).

I'm using the term "design" to mean "make the plans" in this context. That might be the reason of the confusion.
 

Khato

Golden Member
Jul 15, 2001
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Indeed. Would be interesting to know whether any of the restrictions are affecting the fabs given that clean room design and attire is meant to remove potential contaminants. So I'd expect there to be very low risk of spread between employees on the manufacturing side, especially with a few basic precautions.

One point that's somewhat on the design side that also requires some minimal physical presence would be the post-silicon validation stage. Engineers can access those systems remotely, but as you might imagine they're more prone to misbehaving and requiring someone to physically be present to hit a reset button/cycle power/etc. But that's easily solved by just having one member of the team in the lab being the 'physical presence' for the rest of the team.

Of course this doesn't work if a country is under complete lockdown without exception. (I'd expect that the silicon manufacturing side can typically get an exception.)
 

moinmoin

Platinum Member
Jun 1, 2017
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Indeed. Would be interesting to know whether any of the restrictions are affecting the fabs given that clean room design and attire is meant to remove potential contaminants. So I'd expect there to be very low risk of spread between employees on the manufacturing side, especially with a few basic precautions.

One point that's somewhat on the design side that also requires some minimal physical presence would be the post-silicon validation stage. Engineers can access those systems remotely, but as you might imagine they're more prone to misbehaving and requiring someone to physically be present to hit a reset button/cycle power/etc. But that's easily solved by just having one member of the team in the lab being the 'physical presence' for the rest of the team.

Of course this doesn't work if a country is under complete lockdown without exception. (I'd expect that the silicon manufacturing side can typically get an exception.)
As far as creating the dies is concerned I think we needn't worry much, in TSMC's case Taiwan has an exceptionally good track record for a country its size and its length of involvement so far. What I would first worry about is logistics, the dies need to be shipped to assembly and then to the consumers/OEMs etc. And with lockdown in effect all the logistic channels for international trade are falling down as well.
 

Markfw

CPU Moderator, VC&G Moderator, Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 16, 2002
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Also, even though Washington County(location of several Intel fabs, including 10nm) has restrictions in place "stay at home", there are only 3 deaths for covid-19, so based on Khato's response and these facts, I doubt Intel will be affected. If I see correctly, Taiwan only has 5 deaths for the whole country. (for covid-19)
 
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jpiniero

Diamond Member
Oct 1, 2010
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Also, even though Washington County(location of several Intel fabs, including 10nm) has restrictions in place "stay at home", there are only 3 deaths for covid-19, so based on Khato's response and these facts, I doubt Intel will be affected. If I see correctly, Taiwan only has 5 deaths for the whole country. (for covid-19)
Oh yeah the Fabs themselves would be considered Essential. I think they are talking more about design and verification of future products.
 

Markfw

CPU Moderator, VC&G Moderator, Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 16, 2002
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Oh yeah the Fabs themselves would be considered Essential. I think they are talking more about design and verification of future products.
ALL of those types of facilities exist here. One of them within 200 yards of my house.
 

moinmoin

Platinum Member
Jun 1, 2017
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There is some assessment by TrendForce: https://press.trendforce.com/node/view/3347.html

Some quotes:

"Most clients of the global IC design companies placed orders ahead of time, with some of the orders having been fulfilled and shipped already. As such, IC design revenue is not expected to decrease by a considerable amount in 1Q20 despite being somewhat affected by the pandemic. The expanding pandemic has, however, lowered device manufacturers’ demand for IC design."

"Wafer suppliers such as foundries and IDMs are able to maintain their manufacturing operations due to their high degree of industrial automation."

"The packaging and testing, or outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT), industry previously suffered major declines due to the China-U.S. trade war; the pandemic’s current effect on the industry thus appears relatively minor in comparison."

Aside semiconductors they also touch on memory, panels, communications, LED, photovoltaics and different end products.

Quote of interest:

"Due to the pandemic, the top six notebook OEMs, most of which are based in China, suffered damages to their production capacity in February. After China saw a stabilization in the spread of the pandemic, OEMs aggressively pursued labor and materials, while ramping up their capacity utilization rate to 70% within one month. Meanwhile, upstream material manufacturers are expected to return to normal supply levels before May."
 

maddie

Diamond Member
Jul 18, 2010
3,388
2,337
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There is some assessment by TrendForce: https://press.trendforce.com/node/view/3347.html

Some quotes:

"Most clients of the global IC design companies placed orders ahead of time, with some of the orders having been fulfilled and shipped already. As such, IC design revenue is not expected to decrease by a considerable amount in 1Q20 despite being somewhat affected by the pandemic. The expanding pandemic has, however, lowered device manufacturers’ demand for IC design."

"Wafer suppliers such as foundries and IDMs are able to maintain their manufacturing operations due to their high degree of industrial automation."

"The packaging and testing, or outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT), industry previously suffered major declines due to the China-U.S. trade war; the pandemic’s current effect on the industry thus appears relatively minor in comparison."

Aside semiconductors they also touch on memory, panels, communications, LED, photovoltaics and different end products.

Quote of interest:

"Due to the pandemic, the top six notebook OEMs, most of which are based in China, suffered damages to their production capacity in February. After China saw a stabilization in the spread of the pandemic, OEMs aggressively pursued labor and materials, while ramping up their capacity utilization rate to 70% within one month. Meanwhile, upstream material manufacturers are expected to return to normal supply levels before May."
Ha. Notice the focus on production? What the F happens when all these newly unemployed worldwide stop buying stuff? People have been shaken so deeply by fear, that a V shaped return to normal scenario is highly optimistic.

Truly amazing that these analysts get payed to produce these blinkered reports.
 

moinmoin

Platinum Member
Jun 1, 2017
2,418
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Ha. Notice the focus on production? What the F happens when all these newly unemployed worldwide stop buying stuff? People have been shaken so deeply by fear, that a V shaped return to normal scenario is highly optimistic.

Truly amazing that these analysts get payed to produce these blinkered reports.
The report does touch on some demand related aspects, I just didn't find them note- and quoteworthy. Demand is fully dependent on the state of the pandemic in the respective region and as such very volatile, whereas production can be more independent due to automation. What's truly missing is an assessment of international trading logistics without which any production and demand is essentially meaningless.
 

maddie

Diamond Member
Jul 18, 2010
3,388
2,337
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The report does touch on some demand related aspects, I just didn't find them note- and quoteworthy. Demand is fully dependent on the state of the pandemic in the respective region and as such very volatile, whereas production can be more independent due to automation. What's truly missing is an assessment of international trading logistics without which any production and demand is essentially meaningless.
True, but it seems most of the wealthy countries are being hit hard, with a resultant loss of aggregate earnings. If individuals have less money to spend on non-essentials, then what do you see as to buying habits for the rest of the year? For example, loans might have a moratorium, but present debts will still have to be repaid. An individual might lose 2-3 months earnings but still have the full debt load. In my opinion purchases of computers as a total number will drop. We will continue with what we have for a longer period than normal.
 

Hitman928

Diamond Member
Apr 15, 2012
3,479
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My company has a couple of tapeouts coming up in the next 2-3 months on 2 different foundries and we've been told that there isn't any disruption in schedule.
 
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