Speculation: Intel will become fabless

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With the loss of its manufacturing lead, will Intel become fabless?

  • Yes, Intel is a product designer at heart, and they will seek a more flexible fabless model.

    Votes: 19 13.9%
  • No, manufacturing is integral to Intel, and they will continue to invest to stay competitive.

    Votes: 118 86.1%

  • Total voters
    137

DrMrLordX

Lifer
Apr 27, 2000
16,020
4,970
136
I think they might be a perfect match.
That's an interesting take. On the one hand, their IP and base of engineering talent has 0 experience on any nodes smaller than their 12nm node (actually 12nm+, plus the FDX nodes fwiw). So I don't see them as being helpful in directly fixing any of Intel's node problems. But they did a). absorb IBM's old fabs + staff plus IBM's 32HP node and b). license/adapt 14nm from Samsung so they do have experience on how to adapt to survive. Maybe that experience combined with a licensed node from one of the active foundries (Samsung or TSMC) would be enough to keep Intel afloat for awhile yet.

I still don't see Intel surviving as an IDM of any kind without bending a knee to Samsung or TSMC.
 
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Ajay

Diamond Member
Jan 8, 2001
7,063
2,364
136
That's an interesting take. On the one hand, their IP and base of engineering talent has 0 experience on any nodes smaller than their 12nm node (actually 12nm+, plus the FDX nodes fwiw). So I don't see them as being helpful in directly fixing any of Intel's node problems. But they did a). absorb IBM's old fabs + staff plus IBM's 32HP node and b). license/adapt 14nm from Samsung so they do have experience on how to adapt to survive. Maybe that experience combined with a licensed node from one of the active foundries (Samsung or TSMC) would be enough to keep Intel afloat for awhile yet.

I still don't see Intel surviving as an IDM of any kind without bending a knee to Samsung or TSMC.
Seems like TSMC only sees their involvement with Intel as transitional. That leaves Samsung, which is having problems like Intel right now. I thought they might be a good match at first, but now I'm thinking the cultural differences (business culture and actual) will be a huge hurdle for a partnership. Samsung isn't doing well enough to just sell it's processes to Intel. Something more clever needs to be done. Intel has the volume, as best I can tell based on 14nm's high utilization, to remain an IDM from a financial standpoint.
 
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scannall

Golden Member
Jan 1, 2012
1,673
1,037
136
That's an interesting take. On the one hand, their IP and base of engineering talent has 0 experience on any nodes smaller than their 12nm node (actually 12nm+, plus the FDX nodes fwiw). So I don't see them as being helpful in directly fixing any of Intel's node problems. But they did a). absorb IBM's old fabs + staff plus IBM's 32HP node and b). license/adapt 14nm from Samsung so they do have experience on how to adapt to survive. Maybe that experience combined with a licensed node from one of the active foundries (Samsung or TSMC) would be enough to keep Intel afloat for awhile yet.

I still don't see Intel surviving as an IDM of any kind without bending a knee to Samsung or TSMC.
People seem to be forgetting that GF got a working 7nm 'gift' from IBM, and their process engineers. They chose however to not spend money building a new fab and/or getting the equipment to produce them.
 
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NTMBK

Diamond Member
Nov 14, 2011
8,707
1,680
126
People seem to be forgetting that GF got a working 7nm 'gift' from IBM, and their process engineers. They chose however to not spend money building a new fab and/or getting the equipment to produce them.
A process that "works" for IBM mainframe might not be economically viable for mass market CPUs.
 
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Doug S

Senior member
Feb 8, 2020
250
301
96
A process that "works" for IBM mainframe might not be economically viable for mass market CPUs.
Economic viability of a process (once the fixed cost is sunk to build the fab and develop the process) is basically down to yield, and if you yield well enough for the giant chips IBM uses in their mainframes, you will yield just fine for the smaller chips most customers want.
 

Spartak

Senior member
Jul 4, 2015
312
216
116
I don't believe the IBM 7nm process would be ready to go after they install a bunch of EUV machines. Also: it would be similar to the TSMC/Samsung 7nm node, not the Intel 7nm that's ~50% denser.
 

NTMBK

Diamond Member
Nov 14, 2011
8,707
1,680
126
Economic viability of a process (once the fixed cost is sunk to build the fab and develop the process) is basically down to yield, and if you yield well enough for the giant chips IBM uses in their mainframes, you will yield just fine for the smaller chips most customers want.
With the prices IBM charges for mainframes, I imagine that you could probably eat yields as bad as 1-2 viable chips per wafer.
 

scannall

Golden Member
Jan 1, 2012
1,673
1,037
136
With the prices IBM charges for mainframes, I imagine that you could probably eat yields as bad as 1-2 viable chips per wafer.
The Power9 CPU's aren't as expensive as you might think. The 22 core model is roughly $3400. 22 cores and 88 threads isn't bad. 2.75 Ghz base, 3.8 Ghz boost. It's a 190 watt part as well.
 

DrMrLordX

Lifer
Apr 27, 2000
16,020
4,970
136
People seem to be forgetting that GF got a working 7nm 'gift' from IBM, and their process engineers. They chose however to not spend money building a new fab and/or getting the equipment to produce them.
Actually I wasn't even aware of that. Wasn't IBM forced to move POWER fabrication entirely away from GF due to their failure to advance in node tech?
 

sfpietri

Junior Member
Aug 4, 2020
1
0
6
This is a wake up call from the Street to (the GM of) Intel fabs. Do you want to keep your job? Show me some results in 7nm and they'd better be great and on time, or else ...

As of today, Intel is turning into a one Gig player after divesting in a few biz. This could be good news if the money generated goes to fund long term projects for the next computing wave after Intel lost the mobile computing opportunity.

The competitive advantage of having your own fab is huge, TSMC gross margin is still >50%, that means the 45 B$ profit would become 22.5 B$ if you don't count the cost saving once you don't run the fabs... not to mention that manufacturers may not be too gentle with pricing once the competition is gone.

I am very curious to see what happens the day TSMC gets a virtual monopoly on 5nm and 3 nm.
 

Gideon

Senior member
Nov 27, 2007
833
1,259
136
I am very curious to see what happens the day TSMC gets a virtual monopoly on 5nm and 3 nm.
This is looks like more and more the case. Apparently Qualcomm is also shifting it's 5nm Samsung efforts to TSMC

I really hope Samsung's Nanosheet 3nm lives up to all the hype, but considering how they blew EUV after claiming of being faster than anyone else ... not that likely :(
 

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