Tag: chip

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.

AMD’s Zen will be branded Ryzen

rizen-300x300AMD’s Zen will have a brand which sounds suspiciously like a drug for erectile dysfunction, a chemical weapon extracted from caster beans or a gospel group

The Ryzen brand will be applied to desktop and mobile variants. It had been formerly known as Summit Ridge. AMD has been telling the world that Ryzen is pronounced Rye-Zen (like horizon, without the “ho”). It has not said what the Rye means, but tired and emotional hacks suggested that it might be inspired by Jack Daniels – as indeed so are they.

Zen-based processors will target desktops, servers, and mobiles device, but the first wave of products will be targeted at the performance desktop market, where gamers and VR continue to spur growth. PC gaming hardware is predicted for 35 percent growth from 2015 to 2020, and VR-capable PCs are predicted to grow by a factor of 10 by 2020. Interest in eSports continues to skyrocket as well.

AMD has disclosed that one of the high-end options in the initial Ryzen line-up will feature eight cores (16 threads with SMT) and at minimum a 3.4 GHz base clock, with higher turbo frequencies. That processor will have 20MB of cache – 4MB of L2 and 16MB of L3. AMD is also hyping up what it is calling SenseMI technology. AMD’s SenseMI is a set of sensing and adapting technologies, including what AMD is calling “an artificial intelligence network” inside every Zen processor. There are five main features of SenseMI that include Pure Power, Precision Boost, and Extended Frequency Range (or XFR), along with the neural net prediction algos and smart prefetcher.

In fact, there is not that much exciting in SenseMI – it is just an updated branch predictor, prefetcher, and power and control logic in Zen. It might have some sexed up algorithms but it is not the ground breaking technology it is claimed.

AMD said that the AM4 platform for Ryzen will be have all the usual gubbins you expect to see on a modern PC enthusiast platform. AM4 motherboards will use DDR4 memory and feature PCIe Gen 3 connectivity, and support for USB 3.1 Gen 2, NVMe, and SATA Express.

Another thing that Ryzen will have is something called Pure Power which senses what’s going on with the processor’s current workload and provides a closed-loop control system to scale performance and power, over what AMD is calling its Infinity Fabric.

This monitors temperatures, frequencies, and voltage, and adaptively controls each element to optimize performance and power usage.

Another thing that Ryzen will have is something called Infinity Fabric which is interconnect technology used to link the individual bits of IP within a processor and the processor to other IO.

AMD wants this tech to scale its products, beyond moving to new process nodes, increase performance and efficiency, scale bandwidth, improve latency and the chip’s QoS.

Infinity Fabric consists of two key elements, a scalable control fabric and a scalable data fabric. The scalable control fabric has all the central control elements, with small remote elements that are dispersed in each different block of the SoC.

However the early indications suggest that Ryzen is rather good and should put the fear of Jehovah into Intel – particularly if AMD keeps the price down.

1,000 core chip developed

many-coreA team of boffins has emerged from its smoke filled labs with a microchip with 1,000 independent programmable processors.

The team, from the University of California, Davis, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, developed the energy-efficient 621 million transistor “KiloCore” chip so that it could manage 1.78 trillion instructions per second.

Team leader Bevan Baas, professor of electrical and computer engineering said that it could be the world’s first 1,000-processor chip and it is the highest clock-rate processor ever designed in a university.

While other multiple-processor chips have been created, none exceed about 300 processors. Most of those were created for research purposes and few are sold commercially. IBM, using its 32 nm CMOS technology, fabricated the KiloCore chip.

Because each processor is independently clocked, it can shut itself down to further save energy when not needed, said graduate student Brent Bohnenstiehl, who developed the principal architecture. Cores operate at an average maximum clock frequency of 1.78 GHz, and they transfer data directly to each other rather than using a pooled memory area that can become a bottleneck for data.

The 1,000 processors can execute 115 billion instructions per second while dissipating only 0.7 Watts which mean it can be powered by a single AA battery. The KiloCore chip executes instructions more than 100 times more efficiently than a modern laptop processor.

The processor is already adapted for wireless coding/decoding, video processing, encryption, and others involving large amounts of parallel data such as scientific data applications and datacentre work.

Linaro launches cloud for Arm developers

cloudLinaro has launched a cloud service aimed at ARM developers.

The plan is to help develop hardware and software for ARM-based devices, and they are making available the service for developers looking to write and test server applications.

Developers’ that use the service will have remote access to bare-metal ARM servers — including Qualcomm’s upcoming 24-core server chip. The cloud service will also feature ARM-based server chips from AMD, Cavium and Huawei and is intended to be a cheap and an easy way for developers to test a wide range of ARM 64-bit server hardware platforms.

Qualcomm got into the ARM server market late and its rivals have had 64-bit server processors since 2013. To date, Qualcomm has only supplied test versions of its server chips to unspecified top-tier cloud players, and has stated consistently it would only enter the market when it was viable.

But there is a bit of interest in Qualcomm entering the ARM server market as a counterpoint to Intel x86.  Qualcomm is big enough to give ARM server chips a kick-start.

George Grey, CEO of Linaro, said during a speech at the Linaro Connect conference in Bangkok this week, that the Linaro’s cloud service will be available through servers deployed in Cambridge, U.K., and Austin, Texas. It will be launched in China in the second or third quarter.


Sony to buy Altair

sonySony is to write a cheque to buy the Israeli chipmaker Altair Semiconductor for $212 million.

The move is widely seen as the PS4 maker stepping up its investment in chip technology after strong sales of camera sensors in the last few years helped turnaround the business.

Altair Semiconductor has developed technology to allow small devices such as security alarms and electricity meters to connect to mobile networks, told Reuters last year that it was considering an initial public offering.  The sudden buy out then is surprising but a sensible move for Sony.

There has been a lot of consolidation in the chip industry of late and it is fast getting difficult to find someone to consolidate with.  It is thought that those who can merge with other companies have already done so and will spend the rest of this year restructuring ready for next year.

Sony said it expects to close the deal in early February.

Marvell kills off its mobile business  

63935Chipmaker Marvell plans to cut its mobile business and will lay off nearly one in five of its staff.

The company’s mobile and wireless business makes connectivity chips, and processors for smartphones and tablets.

Marvell said it would now focus on emerging opportunities in businesses such as automotive and Internet of Things, the concept of connecting household devices to the Internet.

The company said on September 11 a slowdown in the personal computer market had led to a weaker-than-expected demand for its hard-disk drive products.

Marvell had a total of 7,163 employees at the end of January.

The chipmaker said on Thursday that it expects to take a charge of $100 million to $130 million related to the restructuring.

The restructuring is currently expected to result in annualised operating savings of $170 million to $220 million, the company said.


Powercolor names GPU after Devil

tumblr_m0l8xh1BCN1rppc0go1_1280Powercolor has released a new card which has 8GB of GDDR5 memory, with a clever new cooling system and dubbed it after the infernal prince of darkness.

The Devil R9 390X will go down like a bucket of projectile vomit in the US Bible Belt, but Powercolor is Chinese. So, trying to flog its Radeon graphics card named after personification of evil invented by a 4th century Christian monk who avoided sex by spending his life in the desert is not going to be a problem.

xxl Powercolor Devil R9 390X 970 80

Diabolic features include a core clock speed of 1100MHz, with the memory clocked at 1525MHz featuring a 512-bit memory interface, and 2816 stream processors.

Powercolor also promises the new card will offer impressive power efficiency and stability, and it won’t run as hot as the fires of hell thanks to a new hybrid cooling system. Whores of Babylon will be sold separately.

The hybrid system uses a Smart Air Cooling function to automatically control the speed the fan spend. This means that you can overclock the hell out of it.

No word on price yet, but you might have to sell your soul for it.

Black phosphorus could be the next silicon

phosResearchers at McGill University and Université de Montréal have come with an alternative to graphene for the next Moore’s Law bending chip material.

Graphene is a one-atom thick material with high electrical conductivity, but as a zero bandgap semiconductor, it acts like a metal. This means that transistors made of the material cannot be easily turned on and off.

However black phosphorus can also be separated into one-atom thick layers known as phosphorene and it does not have the switching problems.

This means that the energy needed to power transistors would be incredibly low.

Thomas Szkopek wrote in Nature that transistors work more efficiently when they are thin, with electrons moving in only two dimensions. Nothing gets thinner than a single layer of atoms.

Of course black phosphorous is not ideal. It is damaged by light, which spells trouble for the creation of single layer transistors.

But the experiments at the highest-powered magnet laboratory in the world, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Florida, the research team discovered that even in thicker sheets of black phosphorous, the electrons still move only in two dimensions.

This is surprising as the electrons are able to be pulled into a sheet of charge which is two-dimensional, even though they occupy a volume that is several atomic layers in thickness. Finding that the 2D electronic structure of black phosphorous was not dependent on the thickness means that it could be manufactured on a large scale.

Of course all that is a few years off, while graphene is closer to production.


Qualcomm denies it is about to be split

184owiq3hokyhjpgUS chipmaker Qualcomm said that it has no plans to spin off its chips business at present, despite calls from some of its investors.

Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs said all this intensifying industry competition was not enough to spin off his chip business from its patent-licensing business.

The idea was mooted by hedge fund Jana Partners in April Qualcomm on the grounds that it would improve shareholder value. Jana claimed that the chip business “essentially worthless” and Qualcomm could make more money in the patent trolling business.

Jacobs said the idea has been talked about for a long time, but he thought that the status quo had a lot of synergies and they don’t really make them much any more.

“Having the businesses together outweighs the dissynergies” well the business would be much heavier for a start.

Jacobs said, however, that the company is always evaluating its options and that the situation could change in the future.

Broadcom back after baseband drop

broadcom_chipWireless chip maker Broadcom reported higher-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit, thanks to sales of its Wi-Fi and broadband chips.

Broadcom has the advantage that its chips are in both the Apple’s iPhone 6, which was launched in September and Samsung’s Galaxy S6, launched in April, both of which did well.

Broadcom is exiting its baseband chips business after falling behind Qualcomm in the development of 4G technology increasingly used by carriers.

While the move freed up resources, it also raised concerns of competitive disadvantage due to the lack of a 4G product.

The stronger-than-expected forecast allayed some of those concerns as the baseband exit is expected to help the company focus more on its better-performing networking and broadband businesses.

Broadcom forecast revenue of $2.10 billion, plus or minus $75 million, for the second quarter ending June 30. Analysts on average were expecting $2.07 billion.

Broadcom also said it took a restructuring charge of $159 million, as of March 31, related to its exit from the baseband business.

The contribution of the baseband business to Broadcom’s total revenue fell to four percent in 2014 from 8 percent in 2013.

Broadcom’s net profit rose to $209 million in the first quarter ended March 31 from $165 million, a year earlier.

Revenue rose about 4 percent to $2.06 billion. Wall Street had had expected earnings a revenue of $2.01 billion.