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Intel news roundup: chiplets milestone, server exit, and ARM deal

News Analysis
Apr 17, 20234 mins

Three announcements from Intel pertain to chip manufacturing and divesting its prebuilt server business.

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Credit: nuchao

Intel had a busy week. A trio of news announcements revealed its chiplets progress, a manufacturing agreement with Arm, and the shedding of another non-core line of business.

Prototype multi-die chips heading to DoD

The biggest news is that Intel has begun to ship prototype multi-die chips to the U.S. Department of Defense more than a year ahead of schedule. The DoD project known as State-of-the-Art Heterogeneous Integrated Packaging (SHIP) is an ambitious plan that will connect Intel’s CPUs, FPGAs, ASICs and government-developed chiplets all within the same processor packaging, as opposed to multiple separate dies.

AMD was the first to pursue the chiplet design, but AMD took a different approach in that it broke up large, monolithic CPUs into smaller chips. So, instead of one physical piece of silicon with 32 cores, it created four chiplets with eight cores each connected by high-speed interconnects. The idea is that it’s much easier to manufacture an eight-core chip than a 32-core chip.

But what AMD is doing is all x86. Intel is mixing multiple chip designs, and some of them are coming from outside the company, namely the federal government. The DoD chips are believed to contain sensitive military IP, so it’s plausible that part of the appeal of working with Intel is that Intel primarily makes its chips in Arizona. AMD’s chips are made by TSMC in Taiwan.

It’s a positive sign that Intel is shipping this prototype a year ahead of schedule.

Working with Arm

In a move that would’ve been unthinkable a decade ago, Intel and Arm have signed an agreement to make it easier for Arm licensees to have their products manufactured at an Intel fab using an upcoming advanced production node.

It’s a big win for Intel and its IDM 2.0 strategy of making chips for third parties. The strategy was announced two years ago but hasn’t really landed any big names. The deal will see Arm and Intel Foundry Services (IFS) work together to optimize their respective technologies to help chip designers have the chips made using Intel’s 18A process node.

The effort will focus on mobile SoC designs at first, but it is not limited to mobile SOCs. Intel left the door open to a broader range of use cases, including automotive, IoT, data center, aerospace and government applications.

Selling off the server business

Intel continues to divest non-core products and businesses, with the latest being the sale of its server line. If it’s news to you that Intel has a server business, you’re not alone.

Intel has confirmed it is quitting the server-building business and will sell off its rather meager business to MiTAC, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer and parent company of Tyan, a maker of server components and servers.

“In line with Intel’s continued efforts to prioritize investments in its IDM 2.0 strategy, we have made the difficult decision to exit our Data Center Solutions Group (DSG). As part of this plan, MiTAC, an edge-to-cloud IT solutions provider and longstanding ODM partner of DSG, will have the right to manufacture and sell products based on our designs. We are focused on ensuring the DSG team and its stakeholders are supported during this transition,” said an Intel spokesperson in an emailed statement.

Intel sold very few server units. It never showed up on the top server sales charts from Gartner or IDC. So it’s no surprise that the company is cutting it loose. Intel has made a number of product cuts in recent years, most notably the elimination of its Optane persistent memory technology.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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