Intel Launches Foundry Biz with $10B Fab Spend, Teams Up with IBM

By Tiffany Trader

March 24, 2021

Pat Gelsinger may have left Intel 11 years ago to secure his first CEO post elsewhere, but he returned in February to claim the company’s CEO spot — and he’s got a bold plan for the future. Gelsinger, who rejoined the company five weeks ago after eight years leading VMware, laid out his plan Tuesday in a webcast titled “Intel Unleashed – Engineering the Future.” The announcement had three thrusts: getting 7nm back on track with EUV technology, launching Intel Foundry Services with a $20 billion investment in two new fabs, and a new research collaboration with IBM. The company also announced it is reviving the spirit of the Intel Developer Forum event with the launch of Intel On, planned for October in San Francisco.

Out of the gate, Gelsinger said that the company’s 7nm process issue had been resolved, thanks in large part to Intel’s full embrace of EUV, where the company was previously on the “wrong side of the EUV maturity curve.” 

“We’ve rearchitected and simplified our 7nm process flow, increasing our use of EUV by more than 100 percent,” said Gelsinger. “We have a very strong partnership with ASML and our plans to now stay on the leading edge of EUV usage are well underway.”

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger holds up “Ponte Vecchio” GPU at March 23, 2021, virtual event.

While timeline details were thin for 7nm datacenter CPU and GPU parts, Gelsinger said “confidence in 7nm health and competitiveness is accelerating; leveraging our 7nm process, we are advancing the development of lean datacenter and client CPUs, starting with Meteor Lake, our high volume 2023 client product.” Intel said it expects to tape out the 7nm Meteor Lake in the second quarter of this year.

On the GPU side, Gelsinger showed off Intel’s exascale-focused Ponte Vecchio datacenter GPU, but did not say when it would be ready for primetime. Ponte Vecchio will presumably take advantage of Intel 7nm EUV technology, but Intel has still not publicly confirmed the process node of the GPU die (Xe-HPC) or who will be making it. Despite Intel’s having the chip “in-hand,” the status and timing of the Aurora supercomputer engine (and thus the Aurora supercomputer) is still uncertain. Previously slated to arrive at Argonne National Lab in 2021, Aurora’s ETA is now TBA. Fortunately, Argonne has received samples of the smaller Xe-HP GPU to help with exascale application development.

Holding up the recently minted Ponte Vecchio chip, Gelsinger reported that it uses more than 40 different tiles — 47 “XPU” tiles to be exact — integrated into a single package. “This package is a diverse combination of more than 100 billion transistors,” said Gelsinger, “manufactured in multiple process technologies and packaged using both Foveros and EMIB.”

(Intel released a brief video on Ponte Vecchio. Watch it here.)

In a Q&A session at the end of the “Intel Unleashed” event, Gelsinger acknowledged the company’s setbacks with process technology, but said that when it comes to 3D packaging technology, Intel has “perfect, unquestioned leadership.”

Intel plans to officially launch its 10nm third-generation Xeon Scalable “Ice Lake” chips in two weeks, and says customers are currently testing the next-gen 10nm “Sapphire Rapids” CPUs. Gelsinger indicated Sapphire Rapids will be in production by the end of the year, ramping in the first half of 2022. Intel’s first 7nm server CPU, codenamed “Grand Rapids,” is on the roadmap for 2023.

Intel’s vision for IDM 2.0

Gelsinger revealed the company’s IDM 2.0 strategy as an ambitious plan that will restore its leadership manufacturing performance. Described as a major evolution of the chip company’s integrated device manufacturing (IDM) model, IDM 2.0 represents the combination of three factors: 1) Intel’s internal factory network; 2) the expansion of Intel’s use of third-party foundry capacity across its portfolio and 3) the launch of Intel Foundry Services. 

Intel is betting that this tri-part strategy will deliver, in Gelsinger’s words, “leadership products, leadership costs and leadership supply.”

“That is the right strategy for Intel,” said the CEO, and one the company is making, it says, without as-yet-committed government support, although it hopes to see government investment from, e.g., the U.S. CHIPS Act, and said it is currently competing for a U.S. Department of Defense secure foundry contract.

With a vision to become a major provider of U.S.– and Europe-based foundry capacity, Intel has established a standalone foundry business (Intel Foundry Services) led by Dr. Randhir Thakur, who reports directly to Gelsinger.

“We will be differentiated from other foundry offerings with a combination of leading edge packaging and process technology, committed capacity in the U.S. and Europe — available for customers globally — and a world class IP portfolio that customers can choose from, including x86 cores, graphics, media, display, AI, interconnect, fabric and other critical foundational IP along with Arm and RISC-V ecosystem IPs,” said Gelsinger.

He added that the business unit will be completely dedicated to the success of its customers with full P&L responsibilities.

“We conservatively size the foundry opportunity as a $100 billion addressable market by 2025 with most of the growth coming from leading edge computing, which is our expertise. The majority of leading edge foundry capacity is concentrated in Asia, while the industry needs more geographically balanced manufacturing capacity,” said Gelsinger.

Intel said it will make the outlay expenditures necessary to be a world-class foundry with investments in industry-standard PDK models and simplified design rules. “We are building on our EDA partnerships with both Cadence and Synopsys to enable their design tools for our Intel foundry services,” said Gelsinger, adding the company will also make investments in its own competitive foundational IP offerings, leveraging standard interfaces as well as third party IP availability.

Intel is also expanding the relationships it has with TSMC, Samsung, UMC and Global Foundries and leveraging the foundry network, Gelsinger reported. “This will provide us with increased flexibility and scale we need to optimize our roadmaps for cost, performance, schedule and supply, giving us a unique competitive advantage,” the CEO said.

However, the CEO affirmed that Intel will continue to build the majority of its products in Intel fabs.

$10 billion for Two new Ocotillo fabs

To accelerate its IDM 2.0 strategy, Intel is spending $20 billion to build two new fabs at its Ocotillo campus in Chandler, Arizona. These fabs will support Intel’s needs, as well as provide committed capacity for foundry customers. 

Planning and construction will commence this year and the project is on-track to create more than 3,000 permanent high-tech, high-wage jobs, over 3,000 construction jobs and 15,000 long term jobs in Arizona, according to Intel.

Referencing very strong global demand for semiconductors, fueled by worldwide component shortages, Intel says it in a unique position to leverage this market opportunity. The company plans to announce additional factory locations in the U.S. and Europe within the next year.

Intel + IBM

In a move perhaps more surprising than Intel getting back into foundry business it had tried out and exited several years ago, Intel has announced a research partnership with long-time rival IBM, focused on creating next-generation logic and packaging technologies.

“For more than 50 years, the two companies have shared a deep commitment to scientific research, world-class engineering and a focus on bringing advanced semiconductor technologies to market,” Intel said in a statement. “These foundational technologies will help unleash the potential of data and advanced computation to create immense economic value focused on advanced silicon process and packaging technology.”

“By bringing together two of the best semiconductor research organizations in the world, we will greatly accelerate innovations in the semiconductor industry,” said IBM CEO Arvind Krisha, speaking at Intel Unleashed. “Let me also express our support for Intel’s decision to expand and bring a new foundry business that will bolster the United States competitiveness in semiconductors.”

Final takeaways

Gelsinger said on yesterday’s webcast that the theme of his young tenure as CEO of Intel is “execute, execute, execute.” The light irony of that statement aside, that is the core question. Can Intel execute? Can they build two fabs in two years? Can they streamline and modernize and not be distracted? Can they deliver promised and future parts?

The real milestone will be fab construction, realistic use of third party fabs and delivering parts on time. That’s a lot, but Intel has staged — and executed — comebacks before: when it switched focus from memory to microprocessors under the leadership of Andy Grove in the late 70s/early 80s, and when it took back the market share lost to AMD Opterons about a decade ago.

Gelsinger, a 30-year alum of Intel before leaving in 2009 to pursue a CEO path via EMC/VMware, was mentored under Grove.

“We’re bringing back the execution discipline of Intel,” Gelsinger said on yesterday’s webcast. “I call it the Grovian culture — that we do what we say we’re going to do, that we have that confidence in our execution, that our teams are fired up; we said we’re going to do X, we’re going to do 1.1X every time that we make a commitment.”

Jack Gold, principal analyst of J.Gold Associates, LLC., shared that Gelsinger is “known for being a ‘take action’ executive that doesn’t rest on past laurels.”

“Intel was for many years 2-3 years ahead of everyone else in the industry when it came to chip processing,” writes Gold in an analyst report he provided to HPCwire. “But about 3-4 years ago it began to stumble badly and now its biggest processing rivals, TSMC and Samsung, both of which supply chips to key “fabless” semiconductor companies like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and many others, are 2-3 years ahead of Intel. Gelsinger has stated publicly that Intel wants to regain the lead, but has not stated how soon that might happen. In our opinion, this could take 2-3 years at least to achieve, and of course the competition is not sitting still, so it will take a massive effort to accomplish. Intel does have enormous resources it can bring to bear on this task, so it’s certainly possible to achieve, but it won’t be easy.”

For the moment, despite Intel’s rocky track record of late with canceled and delayed products, the company is also facing a convergence of potentially favorable conditions: a new tech-focused CEO in Gelsinger, their not-to-be-underestimated IP (and in particular their packaging technology), the international rivalry that is catalyzing U.S. and EU investment, the partnerships the company is building and robust demand fueled by ongoing industry-wide component shortages. At the very least, Intel has done something big to shake up its image, appease investors and generate conversation.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Cerebras Doubles AI Performance with Second-Gen 7nm Wafer Scale Engine

April 20, 2021

Nearly two years since its massive 1.2 trillion transistor Wafer Scale Engine chip debuted at Hot Chips, Cerebras Systems is announcing its second-generation technology (WSE-2), which its says packs twice the performance Read more…

MLPerf Issues New Inferencing Results, Adds Power Metrics, Nvidia Wins (Again)

April 20, 2021

MLPerf.org, the young ML benchmarking organization, today issued its third round of inferencing results (MLPerf Inference v1.0) intended to compare how well various systems and accelerators perform inferencing on a suite Read more…

The New Scalability

April 20, 2021

HPC is all about scalability. The most powerful systems. The biggest data sets. The most cores, the most bytes, the most flops, the most bandwidth. HPC scales! Notwithstanding a few recurring arguments over the last twenty years about scaling up versus scaling out, the definition of scalability... Read more…

Supercomputer-Powered Climate Model Makes Startling Sea Level Rise Prediction

April 19, 2021

The climate science community is tasked with striking a difficult balance: inspiring precisely the amount of alarm commensurate to the climate crisis. Make estimates that are too conservative, and the public might not re Read more…

San Diego Supercomputer Center Opens ‘Expanse’ to Industry Users

April 15, 2021

When San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego was getting ready to deploy its flagship Expanse supercomputer for the large research community it supports, it also sought to optimize Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Research computing with RONIN on AWS

To allow more visibility into and management of Amazon Web Services (AWS) resources and expenses and minimize the cloud skills training required to operate these resources, AWS Partner RONIN created the RONIN research computing platform. Read more…

GTC21: Dell Building Cloud Native Supercomputers at U Cambridge and Durham

April 14, 2021

In conjunction with GTC21, Dell Technologies today announced new supercomputers at universities across DiRAC (Distributed Research utilizing Advanced Computing) in the UK with plans to explore use of Nvidia BlueField DPU technology. The University of Cambridge will expand... Read more…

Cerebras Doubles AI Performance with Second-Gen 7nm Wafer Scale Engine

April 20, 2021

Nearly two years since its massive 1.2 trillion transistor Wafer Scale Engine chip debuted at Hot Chips, Cerebras Systems is announcing its second-generation te Read more…

MLPerf Issues New Inferencing Results, Adds Power Metrics, Nvidia Wins (Again)

April 20, 2021

MLPerf.org, the young ML benchmarking organization, today issued its third round of inferencing results (MLPerf Inference v1.0) intended to compare how well var Read more…

The New Scalability

April 20, 2021

HPC is all about scalability. The most powerful systems. The biggest data sets. The most cores, the most bytes, the most flops, the most bandwidth. HPC scales! Notwithstanding a few recurring arguments over the last twenty years about scaling up versus scaling out, the definition of scalability... Read more…

San Diego Supercomputer Center Opens ‘Expanse’ to Industry Users

April 15, 2021

When San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego was getting ready to deploy its flagship Expanse supercomputer for the larg Read more…

GTC21: Dell Building Cloud Native Supercomputers at U Cambridge and Durham

April 14, 2021

In conjunction with GTC21, Dell Technologies today announced new supercomputers at universities across DiRAC (Distributed Research utilizing Advanced Computing) in the UK with plans to explore use of Nvidia BlueField DPU technology. The University of Cambridge will expand... Read more…

The Role and Potential of CPUs in Deep Learning

April 14, 2021

Deep learning (DL) applications have unique architectural characteristics and efficiency requirements. Hence, the choice of computing system has a profound impa Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

Nvidia Aims Clara Healthcare at Drug Discovery, Imaging via DGX

April 12, 2021

Nvidia Corp. continues to expand its Clara healthcare platform with the addition of computational drug discovery and medical imaging tools based on its DGX A100 platform, related InfiniBand networking and its AGX developer kit. The Clara partnerships announced during... Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

CERN Is Betting Big on Exascale

April 1, 2021

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) involves 23 countries, 15,000 researchers, billions of dollars a year, and the biggest machine in the worl Read more…

Programming the Soon-to-Be World’s Fastest Supercomputer, Frontier

January 5, 2021

What’s it like designing an app for the world’s fastest supercomputer, set to come online in the United States in 2021? The University of Delaware’s Sunita Chandrasekaran is leading an elite international team in just that task. Chandrasekaran, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, recently was named... Read more…

HPE Launches Storage Line Loaded with IBM’s Spectrum Scale File System

April 6, 2021

HPE today launched a new family of storage solutions bundled with IBM’s Spectrum Scale Erasure Code Edition parallel file system (description below) and featu Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

Quantum Computer Start-up IonQ Plans IPO via SPAC

March 8, 2021

IonQ, a Maryland-based quantum computing start-up working with ion trap technology, plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) merger a Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and Read more…

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

AMD Launches Epyc ‘Milan’ with 19 SKUs for HPC, Enterprise and Hyperscale

March 15, 2021

At a virtual launch event held today (Monday), AMD revealed its third-generation Epyc “Milan” CPU lineup: a set of 19 SKUs -- including the flagship 64-core, 280-watt 7763 part --  aimed at HPC, enterprise and cloud workloads. Notably, the third-gen Epyc Milan chips achieve 19 percent... Read more…

The History of Supercomputing vs. COVID-19

March 9, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a greater challenge to the high-performance computing community than any before. HPCwire's coverage of the supercomputing response t Read more…

HPE Names Justin Hotard New HPC Chief as Pete Ungaro Departs

March 2, 2021

HPE CEO Antonio Neri announced today (March 2, 2021) the appointment of Justin Hotard as general manager of HPC, mission critical solutions and labs, effective Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire