Category: Chips

Intel goes to Nervana to sort out its intelligence

Chipzilla has put its artificial intelligence efforts into a single business group led by former CEO of Nervana,  Naveen Rao.

For those who came in late, Intel bought Nervana in the firm belief that the next big thing will be AI powered IT innovation and machine learning.

Writing in his bog, Rao outlined how the Artificial Intelligence Products Group will work across multiple units. Part of the group’s remit will be to bring AI costs down and forge standards. Rao said the group will combine engineering, labs, software, and hardware from its portfolio.

Intel is building an AI lab and a centralised organisation, reporting directly to CEO Brian Krzanich, to make it all work.

This is classic organisational strategy, accelerating delivery by creating  a cross-product group directly reporting to the CEO.

TSMC mulls US chip plant

TSMC fab in Hsinchu - Wikimedia CommonsTSMC has said that it will decide next year on building a US chip plant to get the Trump government off its back.

TSMC chairman Morris Chang had said the company did not rule out the idea of building a US foundry, however it now is clear the company is waiting until next year to see what happens.

The company said that there would be a loss of some benefits if it moved to the States. If an earthquake happened for instance in Taiwan, it could send thousands of people there as support, while it is harder in the States.

Local media CNA news agency reported on Monday that TSMC would make a decision on the plant in the first half of 2018.

The report also said TSMC was considering a $16.41 billion investment for the plant.

But the company could also be distracted by another more pressing matter of investing in Toshiba’s chip business. An industry source familiar with the matter said TSMC was deeply interested in the Toshiba unit.

Nvidia to launch most powerful card yet

Nvidia is officially launching its most powerful gaming graphics card today.

Dubbed the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, the card was announced last week at the Game Developers Conference.

Nvidia has now spilt the beans on the card’s performance. Though its memory complement and a few blocks within the GPU are reduced versus Nvidia’s previous top-end card, the Titan X, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti makes up for its shortcomings with higher memory clocks.

These are based on new and improved Micron GDDR5X memory, faster core clocks and an improved cooler.

The 1080 Ti retails for $699, which is nearly half the price of the $1200 for the Titan X, and it is faster.

The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performed on par with or slightly faster than the NVIDIA Titan X and roughly 30-35 per cent better than the standard GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition.

There is no competition with AMD’s current flagship GPU, the Radeon R9 Fury X; the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti was at times nearly twice as fast than the Fury X.

AMD talks up Naples

AMD has been telling the world+dog about its next generation Zen-based server platform, codenamed Naples.

Naples is an up to 32-core, 64-thread variant of Zen, targeted at enterprise and data centres.

AMD said that Naples processors will feature eight-channel DDR4 memory controllers (with up to 16 DIMMs attached per CPU), with support for up to 4TB of memory and 128 lanes of on-chip PCI Express connectivity.

All this will be in a dual processor/dual socket configuration, which gives Naples up to 64 physical cores (128 threads), access to 32 DIMM slots, and aggregate 16 memory channels. This is double the memory channels, higher memory and more cores than a similar Intel Xeon E5-2699A V4 based server.

AMD’s performance comparisons at its tech day event pit a 2P Naples server with 512GB of DDR4 RAM up against a 2P Intel Xeon E4-2699A V4 configuration with 384GB of RAM.

The Naples system had a higher memory capacity and that memory was clocked much higher too — 2400MHz versus 1866MHz. The Naples system has more cores, and with SMT on, can ultimately process more threads.

The AMD Naples system also has double the memory channels, further improving peak memory bandwidth. In its demos, AMD used a seismic analysis workload, which involved multiple iterations of 3D wave equations.

The only thing that AMD didn’t provide were the prices, but it did say that they should be in the shops in Q2 this year.

Mobile Dialog expects good revenue growth

 

The maker of chips for Apple and Samsung said it expected “good revenue growth” in 2017, indicating a bumper year for high end consumer devices.

Dialog Semiconductor depends for about three quarters of its revenues on smartphone makers, in January already reported a five percent rise in fourth quarter sales to $365 million.

Dialog on Thursday said it expected sales of $255-$285 million in the first quarter of 2017, up from the $241 million it made in the year-earlier quarter.

Hopes for strong chip deliveries to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy have lifted the stock to a 17-month high, gaining 19 percent so far, this year and more than doubling from the 23.21 euro it hit in June.

Apple and Samsung are launching their new smartphones in the coming weeks. Expectations are high, especially for the 10 year edition of the iPhone, contains Dialog’s power management chip.

 

Intel soups up its Atoms

Intel has souped-up its Atom chip, which is more famous for being an underperforming low-end chip for mobile devices.

The latest Atom C3000 chips have up to 16 cores and are more sophisticated than ever. Of course these are not going into smartphones – Intel has given up on that market. Instead they are made for storage arrays, networking equipment, and internet of things devices.

To be fair,  networking and storage devices don’t require much grunt, so a low-power Atom chip will work. Few Intel server chips have more than 16 cores. In this case though, the number of Atom cores means the chip can handle more streams of data.

Under the bonnet of the C3000 is RAS (reliability, availability, and serviceability) capabilities, which is mostly found on high-end Xeon chips. The feature corrects data errors on the fly and prevents networking and storage equipment from crashing.

Intel is also providing development kits for writing storage and networking applications for the chips.

The new chips are already shipping to testers and will become available in the second half of this year.

The Atom C3000 succeeds the C2000 which were originally targeted at microservers and networking and storage equipment. The Atom C2000 is currently in the centre of a row over a flaw that could crash servers and networking equipment. Apparently the C2000 came with a flaw which caused it to die after two years. Intel has provided a temporary fix, but the company is working on a permanent fix.

The Atoms are not the only thing that Intel is making for networking gear. It also has the new Xeon D-1500 chips for networking and storage gear that require quicker turnover of processed data. The chips integrate 10-gigabit ethernet controllers and have a technology called QuickAssist to drive throughput of compressed data up to 40Gbps (bits per second).

Tosh will flog off most of its chip business

Troubled Toshiba will raise $8.8 billion by selling most of its flash memory chip business, seeking to create a buffer for any fresh financial problems.

Tosh has been talking about flogging off part of its successful Flash memory business for a while because that would sort its problems out a bit quicker.

But it decided to abandon that cunning plan to sell just 19.9 percent at the instigation of its main creditor banks which are worried about potential writedowns that may come on top of $6.3 billion hit to its US nuclear unit.

Prioritising its need to raise capital, Toshiba said last week it is now prepared to sell a majority stake or even all its prized chip business.

Toshiba has not decided on the size of the stake to be sold, preferring to focus on the amount that can be raised although it would like to retain a one-third holding that would give it a degree of control over the business, sources in the outfit have leaked.

The sale is the best and the only way Toshiba can raise a large amount of funds and wipe out concerns about its credit risk. The sale should be completed by the end of March next year.

It wants to restart the sale process as soon as possible and may sell to multiple buyers rather than one bidder with interest already received from investment funds, other chipmakers and client companies, he also said.

Other potential financial risks that Toshiba may have to deal with include Landis+Gyr AG, an unlisted German meter maker it acquired in 2011 and whose earnings have not matched expectations.

When Toshiba was offering 19.9 percent of its chip unit, it received offers ranging from $1.8 billion to $3.5 billion.

Western Digital is still interested in buying a stake in Toshiba, two sources said without specifying how big a holding it would be prepared to buy. The California-based firm and Toshiba jointly operate a NAND flash memory plant in Japan.

Troubled Toshiba getting $1.8-3.6 billion bids for its chips

Toshiba Corp President and Chief Executive Officer Hisao Tanaka attends a news conference in TokyoTroubled Toshiba has received bids ranging $1.8-3.6 billion for a 19.9 percent stake in its flash memory business.

Tosh needs to raise around $3 billion from the sale to make it worthwhile. The outfit needs to offset a multi-billion-dollar write down on its US nuclear power business.

Buyers for the Japanese company’s chip unit include SK Hynix and Micron and data storage firm Western Digital and financial investors such as Bain Capital.

Tosh would prefer bids from investment funds because it could conclude a deal quicker than with industry peers that may have to seek permission from competition regulators before any acquisition.

A Toshiba executive has said the company will consider not just the offer price when selecting a bidder but other conditions as well.

A Toshiba spokeswoman said the company could not comment on specifics of the sale process.

The Nikkei Business Daily reported market concerns that Toshiba could delay its third-quarter earnings release, without citing sources. On reporting earnings, Toshiba also plans to reveal the write down on its US nuclear business.

Boffins to build real large scale quantum computer

schrodingers_catAn international team, led by a scientist from the University of Sussex, has today unveiled the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer.

Powered by cats who may, or may not be dead, the computer will be the most powerful on Earth and has calculated the existence of rice pudding even before it has been built.

According to the journal Science Advances, which we get for the spot the quark competition, the blueprint includes a new invention which uses connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another. This new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.

Previously, scientists thought of using fibre optic connections to connect individual computer modules.

The project’s top boffin Prof Winfried Hensinger, head of Ion Quantum Technology Group at the University of Sussex said the availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society.

“Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK’s strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen.”

The computer’s possibilities for solving, explaining or developing could be endless. However, its size will be anything but small. The machine is expected to fill a large building, consisting of sophisticated vacuum apparatus featuring integrated quantum computing silicon microchips that hold individual charged atoms (ions) using electric fields.

Still anything that involves getting dead cats to do the ioning is almost certain to be a winner.

 

 

Memory chips destined to be a load of old Tosh

ToshibaToshiba has approved plans to make its core memory chip business a separate company and seek outside investment for it.

The company is desperately trying to avoid being crippled by an upcoming multi-billion-dollar write-down for its US nuclear business.

The proceeds are set to cover part of the charge for cost overruns at a newly acquired US power plant construction business which is thought to be about $6 billion.

Toshiba’s memory chip business is its crown jewel, accounting for the bulk of its operating profit.

Toshiba is looking to sell roughly 20 percent and potential investors include private equity firms, business partner Western Digital Corp and the government-backed Development Bank of Japan, sources have said.

It wants to complete the sale by the end of the financial year in March to stop shareholder equity from being wiped out by the charge.

However, the move is seen as a band-aid for the sick company as the NAND business is the only one with value, as it makes up all of the semi-conductor profits, which comprise 75 percent of the overall company’s profit.

Even if the deal pans out Tosh will probably have to sell more bits of the company in the future.

A raft of private equity funds, including Silver Lake and Permira, have signed non-disclosure agreements with Toshiba, sources said.

Western Digital, which operates a NAND plant in Japan with Toshiba, may seem like a natural buyer of a large stake in the chip business, a sale might be difficult to pull off before March as it would attract a lot of snuffling from anti-trust watchdogs.

Toshiba estimates the value of its memory chip business at $9-13 billion.

Toshiba Chief Executive Satoshi Tsunakawa recently told the company’s main creditors of its plans and that Tosh will flog off other businesses.

Japanese business weekly Toyo Keizai reported that Terry Gou, chief executive of Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker, is interested in either taking a stake in or buying some of Toshiba’s businesses.