Tag: chip

Intel expands Xeon E5 family

The-Meaning-of-Life-monty-python-17864160-852-480Intel has expanded its Xeon E5 family and giving them higher core counts, the more advanced Haswell-EP architecture, and DDR4.

The result, at least on paper, turns the E5 into a top of the range server chip and a big leap for the entire Xeon E5 series.

The Xeon E5 v2 chips, based on Ivy Bridge, topped out at 12 cores per socket, however the new cores can manage 18 cores per socket.

What makes the new chips slightly less appealing is that there is an increase in the power draw, the Xeon E5 v2 family ranged from 50W to 150W, whereas the Xeon E5 v3 family will span 55W – 160W in a single workstation configuration.

It is all possible because of the Haswell architecture which doubled certain cache bandwidths and introduced features like AVX2, which offers a theoretical near-doubling of floating point performance.

AVX2 did not turn out as sexy as Intel had hoped because most consumer software does not got a benefit from using it.

But in high performance computing, database processing, and other enterprise tasks it is starting to get noticed. Intel has also provided full support for DDR4. Exactly how much DDR4 you can use per socket will depend on your the clock speed and the restrictions on these systems are fairly tight. DDR4-1866 will only allow two DIMMs per channel.

Other features include integrated USB 3.0 support, a full suite of SATA 6G ports, and up to four 10 GigE ports.


Intel re-ARMing

rearm 2It seems that Intel has decided that in the long term its rival ARM has the right idea. We revealed that in the Eye a couple of weeks back.

Intel’s Brian Krzanich told the Citi Global Technology Conference that while ten years down the road the company will continue to get a bulk of its revenue from PCs and servers, a significant part of its revenue will come from mobile, Internet-of-Things and other emerging market segments.

To do that it will need to come up with some ultra-low-cost devices that will still need computing and communications capabilities.

That will mean working out a way to “take our silicon leadership and our architecture down into we talk about parts that may only cost $0.50 and have comms, CPU, everything down there and can run on small batteries.”

Although this is the normal “internet of things” style talk, it is the first time that Chipzilla has given the world its coming vision. In this case it is a super small chip which can run an entire computer’s services for less than 50 cents.

Intel has stayed out of the cheap chips market because the margins are incredibly small, but it is starting to look like it has realised that the Internet of Things will mean low-margin, micro-controllers and other low-cost chips. This will make it difficult for Intel to maintain its traditional 60 percent mark up.

Krzanich said that in a decade, Intel is definitely going to be a broader company across the much broader spectrum of computing. He is also not predicting the death of the PC or the server any time soon.


Woe never ends for Renesas

renesas-chips (1)Japanese chipmaker Renesas is still in trouble and might have to make even deeper cuts to its organisation.

The outfit has just finished a restructuring and is focusing its business on the automotive and industrial sectors and has pulled it back into the black after years of losses.

However Renesas Chairman and CEO Hisao Sakuta said that the company still had too many people and he expects people to quit.

Renesas was hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake which shut a key chip plant for months and sent customers looking for other suppliers.  The company was rescued by government-backed funds but had to sell an integrated chip factory in northern Japan to Sony.  Renesas SP Drivers will be sold to Synaptics for $475 million.

Renesas has so far cut more than 10,000 jobs and racked up $3.3 billion in cumulative net losses over the last four financial years.

It had its fifth round of a voluntary early retirement programme in September which was taken up by 361 employees.  So far the group work force had shrunk to 27,200 as of end-March from 42,800 two years earlier.

Last week, Renesas unveiled a chip using new technologies that it aims to eventually apply to autonomous driving, which merges together feeds from cameras fitted to the car to create a 3D image and can detect pedestrians within several meters of a vehicle.

Test shipments of the chip begin this month, while full production and supply will likely begin in 2016, Renesas said. It is also developing technologies that will enable valet parking of a car by itself, without a driver inside.

Intel to buy MediaTek prediction

entrailsThe fortune-tellers at RBC Capital Markets have emerged from their blood-stained temples with a dark prediction for MediaTek.

Analyst Doug Freedman, after seeing the liver of a particularly well fed Ram, claims that Intel will write a cheque for $27 billion to buy wireless chipmaker MediaTek within three years.

He told the Street that the deal would make sense as Intel’s earnings would grow and would help stop the investment losses it is incurring to grow wireless market share.

Freedman said the deal will happen within the next two-to-three years “almost out of necessity.” He said that  MediaTek’s purchase is Intel’s best option to grow in the wireless market. Intel may also find that the timing is improving for a large deal as the baseband market continues to consolidate, the analyst said.

Although $27 billion is a lot of dosh, Chipzilla is already spending more than $1 billion a quarter to expand into the mobile and wireless market.  This money appears to be just disappearing and the company is suffering heavy losses in the unit as it tries to boost market share beyond the single digits. Over all buying MediaTek could be a less expensive way to drive market share gains and would entail less risk, Freedman said.

MediaTek is a big name in mobile and tablet chipsets, in addition to Bluetooth, WLAN and GPS chips and NFC system on chips.  While Intel pines away in the baseband market,  MediaTek has made steady market share gains.

This would be the second time that Intel has had to buy the stairway to wireless heaven. In 2010 Intel bought Infineon’s wireless solutions business for $1.4 billion .  However Intel’s baseband market share has fallen to the mid-single digits.

Intel has made significant investments but it isn’t expected to post revenue growth in the next two and a half years, according to Wall Street consensus.


AMD slashes prices

The_Pit_and_the_Pendulum_(1961_film)_posterAMD appears to have been going on a campaign of price cutting to take out  Intel’s Core i5 “Devil’s Canyon”.

According to Xbit Labs,  Intel wants to cut prices of its AMD FX-9000 “Centurion” microprocessors in a bid to make them more competitive “Devil’s Canyon” and several other chips from its rival.

AMD has also slightly reduced prices of other FX-series chips and culled some older and lower-end models.

From September 1, 2014, AMD’s FX-9370, with eight cores, 4.40/4.70GHz, 8MB L2 cache, 8MB L3 cache, 220W thermal design power will cost $199 .  The  top-of-the-range FX-9590, eight cores, 4.70/5.0GHz, 8MB L2 cache, 8MB L3 cache, 220W thermal design power will set you back $215.

The prices of the FX-9370 and the FX-9590 will be cut by 23 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Given the minimal difference between pricing of the FX-9370 and the FX-9590.

AMD has promised to cut the prices of “mainstream” FX-series chips slightly on the 1st of September to make them more competitive.

The company said that it will discontinue or will not change the price of many older AMD FX central processing units, including FX-8150, FX-8120, FX-6200, FX-6100, FX-4170, FX-4130 and FX-4100.

Centurion was AMD’s attempt to deal with the launch of Haswell. AMD released two “extreme” FX-class central processing units code-named “Centurion”, which are compatible with advanced AM3+ mainboards and require sophisticated cooling systems. Initially the FX-9370 and the FX-9590 chips were only available to select system integrators and cost up to $800-$900 per unit.

It had been expected that AMD would introduce all-new AMD FX-9000-series “Centurion” microprocessors with increased clock-rates, but it looks like the price cut will make them look better against Intel’s Core i5-4690K “Devil’s Canyon”.


Boffins may make a quantum breakthrough

fatter catA team of boffins at the University of Chicago has announced it has developed a way to observe, control, and manipulate the behaviour of a single electron with the help of lasers.

In terms of quantum physics, this is a way of telling if Schrodinger’s cat is really dead or alive, or just has escaped the box and is asleep on a soft bed somewhere.

An electron is an elementary subatomic particle that is a fundamental constituent of matter, having a negative charge. It is found in all atoms and acts as the primary carrier of electricity in solids.

To manipulate a single electron at the quantum level the researchers used a laser light in ultra-fast pulses which in turn managed the quantum state of an electron inside a nanosecond defect, which is naturally found in diamonds.

The method used was also able to observe and track the properties of the single electron, as well as how the electron changes over a set period of time.

David Awschalom, who led the project, said that his research was a precursor for creating and developing semiconductor “quantum bits” and other microscopic technology and molecular powered computing which would increase computer speeds dramatically.

It would also mean that scientists will finally be able to find that pesky cat.

Tektronix makes security own goal

Barbra_Streisand's_Greatest_HitsIt appears that the Tektronix company has a few problems when it comes to managing the press.

Last week a small site called hackaday ran a yarn which said that Tektronix application modules were designed with laughable security.

The theme of the post was a review of Tektronix modules that unlock the features in an oscilloscope chip. However, Tektronix designed a woefully weak system for unlocking these modules.

Tektronix was not happy about the details of its system being reviewed in the magazine, and even less so that it was described as being “laughable”.

But rather than ignore the review, take the editor out for a quiet chat, or ask nicely to have the thing taken down, Tektronix said the review violated its copyrights.

Its lawyers sent a DMCA Takedown Notice demanding that it remove the post because the story violated its copyright.

To put this in some perspective, if you review a product and you think it is insecure you are allowed to say why. The use of a DMCA though is a nasty tactic because it means that a less understanding ISP can shut your magazine down.

Tektronix said that the posting on the “Hack A Day” website concerning hacking of Tektronix’ copyrighted modules for use in oscilloscopes.

“Hacking those modules permits unauthorised access to and use of Tektronix’ copyrighted software by means of copying of Tektronix’ copyrighted code in those modules,” the company said.

The posting includes instructions for how to hack our modules and thereby violate Tektronix’ copyrights.

However Hack-a-Day said that is the point of its article. The product uses an EEPROM, a connector, and a plain text string of characters which is already published publicly on Tektronix’s  website.

“ If you were selling these keys for $2.99 perhaps this would be adequate, but Tek values these modules at $500 apiece,” the site said.

Now it would appear that Tektronix is suffering from a bad case of Barbara Streisand after all we would never have noticed Hack-a-Day’s story if it had not objected.

Intel plans another “new era”

broadwellChipmaker Intel is has been telling hacks and hackettes that it is going to be lifting the kimono on a “new era” of hardware next month.

It’s unclear what Intel could be announcing at IFA 2014 on September 5, 2014, in Berlin, Germany.  The smart money is on the company applying liberal coats of candle grease to wax lyrical about its next gen CPUs.

For those who came in late, Intel is widely expected to release new 5th-generation processors based on the company’s Broadwell architecture towards the end of this year.

After all Intel has already spilled the beans on its Core M, a super-thin processor that could pave the way for ultra-thin laptops and hybrids. They have also talked about Llama Mountain, a concept device powered by Core M that’s only 7.2mm thick and wears a 12.5-inch display.

Intel’s IFA 2014 presentation could also contain more information about these two devices as well, but that would be old news.

Intel needs to grab a few headlines its Devil’s Canyon CPU was found to offer a modest performance boost over older Intel chips and was greeted by a loud sounding yawn from the press.

Apple’s A8 chip goes like the clappers

gala_appleFruity purveyor of expensive mobile phones Apple has developed a new A8 processor chip based on new 20-nanometre technology for its mobile platform.

The new chips are expected to be under the bonnet of the new iPhones and iPads which are expected this Autumn.

The A8 chip is being made by a joint venture of Samsung and TSMC and word on the street is that the new A8 chip is capable of clock speeds of up to 2.0 GHz or more because its chip is fabricated using 20nm technology.

The 20nm technology means the chip consumes less power in comparison to the current generation A7-powered that are clocked at 1.7 GHz and adopt 28nm chip tech.

This entire change means that the A8’s 20nm chip gives power savings and goes like the clappers. Otherwise, the A8 follows the 64-bit dual-core processor architecture of the A7 chip.

Apple’s design seems to be based on packing more transistors into its 64-bit dual-core architecture instead of just increasing the number of cores. This is against the philosophy of other designers who want smoother multitasking. It appears that Apple wants more marketable clock speeds.

IBM invests in big chip breakthrough

ibm-officeIBM, which has remodelled itself as a business services outfit, has surprised everyone by wanting to be a big player in the chip market again.

Biggish Blue said it will invest $3 billion over the next five years in chip research and development. It wants to find a breakthrough that can help revive its slumping hardware unit.

The plan was announced a week before its second quarter earnings, which, if they are anything like last quarter, will be dire for hardware.

Last quarter sales in its hardware sector plunged 23 percent from a year earlier and the company posted its lowest quarterly revenue in five years.

IBM thinks it can find ways to scale and shrink silicon chips to make them more efficient. The money will be spent researching new materials to use in making chips, such as carbon nanotubes, which are more stable than silicon, are also heat resistant, and can provide faster connections.

Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group said that the announcement was a message to investors is that IBM was committed to chips and thinks great innovation possible.

The investment is equal to half of all IBM’s research and development last year.

Oddly the company is preparing to divest its chip manufacturing business to focus on intellectual property so any developments will be in the nature of being fabless chipmaker. IBM was rumoured to be close to a deal with chipmaker Globalfoundries.

Intel scores Panasonic fab contract

intel_log_reversedThe sales teams at Chipzilla have opened the champers after scoring a key contract with Panasonic.

Intel chips will now be under the bonnect of Panasonic’s upcoming TVs, stereos and other audiovisual gear.

Intel signed an agreement with Panasonic to make next-generation system-on-chips to process audio and video. The chips will be made using Intel’s 14-nanometer process.

Under the plan Chipzilla will work with Panasonic’s System LSI division, which makes video encoding/decoding and chips for TVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes and other products.

It seems that Panasonic will design the chips, which will then be sent to Intel’s fabrication plants for manufacturing. The Panasonic SOCs will be based around 3D transistors.

Intel said that adding a high-profile customer like Panasonic will enhance the visibility of Intel’s fledgling chip manufacturing operations.

The company has been slowly expanding its custom-chip business, opening up its factories to external companies as a way of making back some of the costs of upgrading factories.


Intel expands its foundry business

IntelChipzilla is starting to expand its foundry business to include some serious business partners for the first time.

Forbes reported that Intel has started making chips on behalf of Altera, which is certainly a much bigger fish than the names it has previously outted as business partners including Achronix Semiconductor. Of course Intel makes chips for HP and still has to produce the Alpha chip as part of a SEC settlement but no one ever mentions that these days.

It all makes for an interesting symbiotic relationship. Altera’s programmable chips get to use Intel’s upcoming 14 nanometer trigate transistor technology which will help it steal the march on its nearest rival Altera’s largest competitor and long-time rival is FPGA founder and market-share leader Xilinx .

It also means that Altera can keep established business relationships with the likes of TSMC who will continue to make its more elderly offerings.

Meanwhile Chipzilla gets someone who will ultimately pay for the huge amounts that Intel needs to keep its fabs at the cutting edge. It also means that it does not have to mothball plants because the PC business is in the doldrums thanks to the recession.

But with Intel attempting to obtain new customers, it could be that it will become a foundry for many other surprising names. Already Apple has been mentioned, although not by name.

Sunit Rikhi, Vice President and General Manager of Intel custom foundry, told the Mercury that if Intel was called upon to serve large mobile customers who can drive a lot more volume, it could serve them today in terms of capability.

He added that he was confident we have a very strong platform of offering upon which we can scale and that there was no doubt in his mind the foundry business will be a significant player in the future”.

RBC analyst Doug Freedman agreed saying that Intel had crossed over the line from it just being a questionable experiment to working with important clients.

Altera Chief Executive John Daane said that Altera, which depends on communications infrastructure for about half of its business, is the only major programmable chipmaker that will have access to Intel’s plants.

“We are essentially getting access like an extra division of Intel. As soon as they’re making the technology available to their various groups to do design work, we’re getting the same,” he said.
Daane said Intel’s manufacturing technology will give Altera’s chips a several-year advantage against Xilinx, its main competitor in programmable chips. He said Altera would continue to make other chips with TSMC, its long-time foundry.