The cloud of doom around Intel

Ben Evans writes:

Meanwhile, over the last decade the modular-focused TSMC, fueled by the massive volumes that came from mobile and a willingness to work with — and thus share profits with — best of breed suppliers like ASML, surpassed Intel’s manufacturing capabilities.

This threatens Intel on multiple fronts:

Intel has already lost Apple’s Mac business thanks in part to the outstanding performance of the latter’s M1 chip. It is important to note, though, that while some measure of that performance is due to Apple’s design chops, the fact that it is manufactured on TSMC’s 5nm process is an important factor as well.

In a similar vein, AMD chips are now faster than Intel on the desktop, and extremely competitive in the data center. Again, part of AMD’s improvement is due to better designs, but just as important is the fact that AMD is manufacturing chips on TSMC’s 7nm process.

Large cloud providers are increasingly investing in their own chip designs; Amazon, for example, is on the second iteration of their Graviton ARM-based processor, which Twitter’s timeline will run on. Part of Graviton’s advantage is its design, but part of it is — you know what’s coming! — the fact that it is manufactured by TSMC, also on its 7nm process (which is competitive with Intel’s finally-launched 10nm process).

I wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the TSMC announcement or specific Intel’s woes- those are complex financial metrics that are beyond the scope of the blog. However, the reason I linked it here is that the dominant (and monopolistic) market is under threat from advances elsewhere. Algorithms, while being optimised, are being made to run on the GPU’s that offer incremental advantage over the x86 designs. Although, I have always advocated for either “own-premises” or having your infrastructure set up to manage the workflows because data is the most important asset.

I am closely watching the hardware space as it would have an increasing bearing on how we plan radiation therapy, for example and the IOT devices that will find a place for real-time monitoring of the components. It is an exciting time!

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