He basically outlined how each process shrink would allow more transistors, but also get more expensive. His conclusion was that fewer fabs would use the leading process in each generation and that costs would almost double for each generation.
It wasn't a particular opinion at the time. Generally it was thought if you were serious about making CPUs, that you would have your own fab.
Impressive how true his predictions were.
> Sometimes Called Moore’s Second Law, because Moore first spoke of it publicly in the mid-1990s, we are calling it Rock’s Law because Moore himself attributes it to Arthur Rock, an early investor in Intel, who noted that the cost of semiconductor tools doubles every four years. By this logic, chip fabrication plants, or fabs, were supposed to cost $5 billion each by the late 1990s and $10 billion by now.
(I shamelessly call it Moore's second law to arrogate the prestige of the first law into its invocation, and because it's hard for me to remember 'Rock's law' - who's that? Plus it puts it in good company by making it an instance of Stigler's Law, which was not first described by Stigler and thus renders Stigler's law autological.)
We've got the following chip companies: Intel, AMD, Samsung.
And we've got a bunch of "fab" companies: Intel, TSMC, Global Foundries, Samsung.
What's the difference between the two sets of companies? Why can't Intel just buy a "7nm" processor from TSMC?
And what exactly is "7nm"? The distance between the closest transistors in a chip? Just guessing.
From browsing Wikipedia, I gather that:
- A chip company designs a processor. The design is in the form of a circuit diagram(?)
- A fab company turns that diagram into a physical product.
Fabs such as TSMC, Global Foundries etc.: They manufacture chips in addition to specifying the rules to be followed when laying out the logical design (circuits) on silicon. Rules differ by the given node (7nm, 10nm, 14nm etc.) and specify things such as the width of a gate, thickness of a metal wire on the chip, spacing and tolerances etc. The actual number just indicates technology advancement. 7nm means the manufacturing process is more advanced than the 10nm process and has little to do with physical reality. Hence Intel's 10nm process might not be the same as TSMC's 10nm. While Intel can in principle adhere to TSMC's 7nm process, they already have their own R&D and develop their process in-house. Switching to a different foundry's node would involve redoing a number of steps before the chip can be manufactured. Besides, fabs guard their process jealously and are very protective of their IP.
Design companies such as AMD, Qualcomm, Broadcom etc. just design the circuits and adhere to the specification of their chosen fab and node to layout the design on silicon.
Source: I worked in the EDA industry.
Intel can buy a "7nm" processor from TSMC and in fact for products that aren't their processors they actually do get other companies to manufacture their products occasionally. They don't want to release the complete design of their processor to external suppliers for IP reasons and have been leveraging their manufacturing advantage to sell more CPUs. Intel could build AMD chips in their fab but then Intel CPUs have to compete with AMD on architecture alone and lose any performance edge attributable to the manufacturing.
Technically this is the gate length of the transistor (https://nptel.ac.in/courses/103106075/Courses/Lecture21.html) but it's becoming mostly a marketing term to refer to the generation of manufacturing tech since the transistor density depends on enough other factors now that gate length alone isn't a good measure. Intel's 14nm ~= TSMC/GF 10nm and Intel's 10nm ~= TSMC/GF 7nm.
"Indistinguishable From Magic: Manufacturing Modern Computer Chips" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGFhc8R_uO4
By the end of the next decade we will probably reach the end of what is physically possible in device fabrication, so competition will have to move to design and software efficiency.
The chip itself though, that's a whole nother thing. Especially the process that works across multiple designs and becomes an asset for the company. Any nanosecond shaved here improves the capacity of the foundry to compete and helps a billion people complete the task 1% faster or have 1% more memory. The customers have no reason to work around a less performing product, they will just buy from the competition.
So you get this strange combo of supernatural hardware assembled with atomic precision by garbage software written in Perl by an outsourcing guy with 6 months total programming experience.
Historically, Intel has not only led in process technology, but has reaped benefits from having the process engineers next door to the processor designers. Intel CPUs have been tuned for the exact process that will be used to make them, including by laying out transistors by hand to maximize performance.
Custom design happens with foundaries as well, of course, but there have historically been synergies from putting processor design and process design under the same roof.
However the latest stumble does show the weakness of that approach. Nothing is stopping Intel from using a 3rd party fab, however every chip they farm out is one less to amortize their fab related R&D over.
Do they need to licence x86 fiest or some sort of other good nuff reason?
Not sure what x86 has to offer Apple though. Their control of their platform would allow them to switch architectures, just like they have twice before. It's widely rumored that Apple will migrate their x86 products to Arm based products. They have invested pretty heavily in Arm.
It happened a few times to me to see a new, still undocumented, feature mentioned in Intel slides, and consult the patent to learn more about it.
For the roughly 25M Mac sold every year, Apple needs lots of design with different TDP. Fanless TDP sub 10W for MacBook, 15 - 25W for MacBook Air like. 35W for MacBook Pro, Upto 100W for iMac, and up to 200W for iMac Pro and Mac Pro. That is around 5 design variation for the 25M unit.
I still don't see how Apple would do it. Especially for the Pros, why would you design CPU aimed at 100W+ when they represent less than 2.5M unit per year. A lot easier just switch to AMD Zen 2 when the timing is right.
*Never is a dangerous word
Licenses to the x86 ISA can’t be bought or transferred via acquisition. Re: the other question someone asked about patent expiration, a patent expired version of the ISA is pretty worthless. Each new iteration gets new patents.
 - a source for Via lawsuit: https://www.cnet.com/news/intel-via-bury-the-hatchet/
ARM is the way to go.
In the long run, no there's no reason why Apple couldn't use RISC V in place of ARM, but not without a large upfront cost.
Apple buying Intel could work, I guess (anti-trust might get involved), but I don't think it would be a wise investment. Apple doesn't have the volume to keep Intel busy alone.
a) monopolies don't arise
b) are good
Apple have successfully managed major instruction set transitions in the past, I think x86 to ARM would probably be the "easiest" one yet.
Like integrating more non-CPU things into the CPU. FPGA, neural coprocessors, DSP, and stuff. FPGA is on the way, but while just couple together CPU and FPGA connecting them by QPI is great, but it's not the things I'm talking about.
What we could wait from Intel is coprocessors real-time offloading, automagically done by (very sophisticated as on Intel x64) CPU control unit. Tight coupling might allow very fast (partial) reconfiguration of that FPGA-like coprocessors - and that's when you need your own fab to make that coupling really tight, and optimize everything down to the last bit.
Wasn't it Actel with SmartFusion?
Node size names have become fairly arbitrary, with no direct connection to any particular feature size. Intel's 10nm is effectively the same as everyone else's 7nm. In either case, the actual pitch between transistor gates is about 54nm. There are ostensibly standards set through the IRDS, but there's a clear marketing imperative to advertise a smaller node size.
I think at that size it is very difficult to get exacts.
Fab refers to a plant than manufactures the chips, versus designs them. I think Intel does both?
>And what exactly is "7nm"?
The size of pixel in an IC, or it used to be so. For convenience, just think that it still is.
>Why can't Intel just buy a "7nm" processor from TSMC?
Intel can dual source fab capacity, (they make part of Atom line at TSMC, part in house) and did so in the past. Besides technicalities, a lot has to do with pride.
and now one more step down.
(As explained in the article, GF is not in the righmost box because they were not yet on the leading process when the chart was made).
Is it just me or does this seem like a drastically bad move for the long term?
The result is you have to almost double your volume with each generation, as a result there are less and less fabs running the current process. Makes AMD decision to split off Global Foundries look pretty good in hindsight.
Even those companies with the leading process make a substantial number of chips on older process. So the bleeding edge CPU gets the latest greatest, but the chipset, flash chips, and memory chips are often a generation or more behind.
Seems realistic that if you are behind and don't have a huge customer (like apple or nvidia) lined up that you just save a few $billion and let TMSC have it. TMSC will of course charge more without competition, and make chips using TMSC less competitive. If Samsung can't compete with TMSC (which remains to be seen) TMSC might well delay future shrinks.
The market loves Moore's law, but the stress is really starting to show. Physics is starting to interfere with what the market wants. Things like CPU clock speeds stagnating, power per chip doubling for the first time in the newest generation, and of course the ever lengthening product cycles.
It does make you wonder when AMD and Intel double the normal CPU socket from 95 watts to 180 watts or so. What are they going to do for the next generation?
Advertised heat output should also be taken with a grain of salt. Both die size and material between the die and heatspreader can make two 95 watt chips have very different cooling requirements.
could they, and still expect to sell? it seems hard to tell the data center and supercomputing customers that they're going to have install massively more cooling capacity.
In servers it's already rumored that Intel will increase TDP to ~300W per socket. This doesn't require more cooling per se, you just fit fewer sockets into the data center.
The idea that you could run an octocore in the same TDP as a quad-core is obviously not correct, and it's largely because Intel and AMD keep pushing the baseclocks down farther and farther.
Just not making fast cpus.
I don’t see GF going away any time soon. They’re a huge player with a lot of customers.
There are only 3 foundries left: Intel, TSMC and Samsung.
If (when) Intel gives up, none of them will have strong roots in the USA. One of the biggest shifts in technological expertise from West to East in history.
Intel might start making noises to try and get government subsidization though, and I would expect Samsung to do the same to the Korean government.
Having a up-to-date fab is pretty clearly a national security asset, else you are at the mercy of whoever you are buying silicon from. Maybe in the 90s or early 00s when everyone was on the globalization train we would have just let things go, but it's hard to imagine that happening now that hardball realpolitik is back in fashion.
Do you see any indication they will be able to take on a majority marketshare in mobile in the next decade?
Historically Intel has been hugely reluctant to do this, as part of the deal when buying Intel chips was that to get access to their advanced fabrication you have to buy their own high margin chip designs. Building other people's chips is traditionally a much smaller margin business, and would be an enormous change to Intel's business model.
I could still see this happening, especially with the current outlook for Intel not looking as rosy as it once was, but it would be a major loss of face for the company that once ruled strong on x86.
The fact that Intel effectively have no market share in the hottest consumer computing market in history (smartphones) is a major failing on Intel's part. Intel selling their ARM business (XScale) to Marvell the year before the first iPhone launched increasingly looks like a pretty terrible decision in hindsight.
Intel Custom Foundry has been a thing since 2010.
That said, it's incredibly low volume compared with the competition.
Although Apple are big on ARM, I can’t see them completely abandoning x86 on the desktop. For Apple themselves it’s not that big a deal, but for 3rd party software vendors and users, switching to another architecture barely a decade after the last switch would be painful. On the hardware side Thunderbolt 3 is still Intel only, and clearly Apple are pushing big for that to be the future.
On the other hand mobile has shown the best designs have a mix of processor cores, some optimised for power and others optimised for performance. Intel haven’t shown anything like that for x86 (other than p/c-states), but clearly the same would be beneficial there too.
So why not Intel performance cores, paired with ARM low power cores? Apple have the low power design know how, and Intel have the fab know how. Both companies have a lot they could benefit from this partnership. Maybe more importantly, from a political side it would be an “all American” chip.
I wouldn't call it a transfer, but a diffusion of technological expertise. Don't see us losing our technological expertise any time soon, if ever.
It's just the end of the road. You can park your car a block or two from the end and be just fine. That's what GlobalFoundries is doing.
On my memory, 65nm was the last process on which a "cookie cutter SoC" was still a good business. But with more opportunities coming up in "niche microcontroller" market today, thanks to boom in "smart things," a generic cheap low power process might too become a viable business again.
GloFo might have just noticed that, and are trying to capitalise by being first in the new niche: tier 1 fab service on cost optimised legacy process.
They were already the biggest fab for companies to whom always getting the best process is not raison d'etre, who can't afford gigantic MOQs of last gen processes.
So they were picking up whomever TSMC was losing due to MOQs, and lack of first class treatment. TSMC was too greedy putting so much focus on work with tier 1 superplayers.
Question thought, what will this mean for their no. 1 customer...? Though they announced them moving to TSMC, their 7nm might still not materialise for quite some time, and they still have to make their low end chip tapeouts somewhere.
Intel is in serious trouble.
Samsung is still developing their photoresist.
And TSMC is shipping.
This is just situation normal.
Sadly I could not find the slide online.
Intel's fabs are still cutting edge, although the gap has almost closed up.
This frees AMD to go exclusively with TSMC, or split their fab needs between Samsung and TSMC.
It is bad news for us all because less competition equals higher prices. The less competition will be shown in all products related to 7 nm.
It's no secret China is eyeing semiconductor manufacturing as sort of a last frontier they need to cross before they become a vertically integrated powerhouse. If China took over Taiwan, and assumed influence over TSMC, wouldn't this be a major achievement?
1. Why aren't TSMC scattering their fabs across different continents - not only for political, but also to protect against natural disasters etc?
2. How much of the USA protection of Taiwan takes into account semiconductor manufacturing?
Both countries do a sort of military training for their youth, but only Taiwan (last I checked) does a year of required service. That said, there are almost no actual combat vets in either country, and Taiwanese military service is basically "sweep gravel, peon."
BUT! The Taiwanese will come with far greater discipline, based on my experience in on-base gyms. Chinese soldiers spend their days derping around, playing ping pong, occasionally running around a track. Some of them get sent out to the fringes of the country to "suppress dissidents" but the majority sit around twiddling their thumbs (information told to me by privates, so, grain of salt).
Taiwanese soldiers, volunteer and conscripts, do seem to get a great deal more actual military training, in terms of equipment and exercises. And, maybe unrelated, but their general strength levels are way higher than their Chinese counterparts (like I said, I hung out in their gyms).
In any case, an invasion of Taiwan would "fail" by most measures of military success. China could probably nuke the island into Ash, or rain shells on it until there was nobody left to surrender, but there is a highly volatile generation or two growing into a distinctly "Taiwanese" identity. They were political enough to take over their own parliament buildings, while being supported by local businesses with food and water. My unprofessional opinion is they sure as shit would be an aggressively horrifying guerrilla force, especially because ~80% are already trained.
I think if China had the will, they could manage it.
My individual data point: I spoke recently with a Taiwanese who finished his military service in the past couple years. In terms of physical strength his account totally corroborates what you said. He wasn't in shape before conscription but got jacked during it, and has stayed that way afterwards.
That said, what he mainly emphasized is how outdated Taiwan's military equipment is. He said most of it is stuff they got from the USA in the 60s and 70s, and not the USA's newest weapons at the time. Their current vehicles break down a lot, and he didn't train much with artillery during his service.
If China were to invade (again, highly highly unlikely) the Chinese would have a huge technological advantage. The Taiwanese identity of the younger generation is legit, but given the relatively cosmopolitan/capitalist/individualist cultural climate, I'm not sure everyone'd be willing to lay their lives on the line for national identity. A more likely outcome is a mass exodus over many years of anyone who disagrees with Chinese ideology and has the wherewithal to get out.
America never had national identity at stake in Vietnam. China has claimed Taiwan since Mao Ze Dong. Taiwan is a way bigger deal for the Chinese national identity than Vietnam ever was for the US.
I hope the "peaceful rise" claims holds true into the future, but a lot of the military technology they're developing are not for defensive purposes.
Considering that Taiwanese engineer programs were, when I was a recruiter, equivalent to USA schooling (depending), they shouldn't have a hard time finding a job here either...
 https://thediplomat.com/2018/08/5-pla-navy-projects-to-watch... The author is a credible source active on reddit as /u/PLArealtalk
> A physical blockade in some form could be coupled with intense economic pressure, and cyber operations. This conflict escalates, and because of domestic nationalist pressure as well as factional infighting, Xi chooses confrontation instead of a backdown.
> PLA cyber, missile, air and maritime forces are deployed against TW in order to neutralize its ability to defend itself. At this stage, an invasion is still not the preferred plan because that would entail a costly campaign involving amphibious assault and urban operations.
> Instead, precision conventional missile, counter space, maritime/economic blockade, and cyber operations are used to bring TW to its knees. For the #CCP this is not only a campaign to obtain limited concessions, but to achieve its vision of unification.
What does that actually mean tho’? A buildup of forces doesn’t neutralise anything. And why would Taiwan sit back and not respond to cyberattacks?
If China is going to take Taiwan and hope to profit from it, they have to do it with a soft approach through engagement, business, and diplomacy -- a scaled up version of Hong Kong and Macau.
Attacking Taiwan is likely to cause WWIII, especially if it causes regional conflicts to flare up (Korea, India-Pakistan).
At the very least Japan is likely to help Taiwan and their navy (oops Maritime Self Defence Force) is as strong as the Chinese one.
In short attacking Taiwan for economic reasons doesn’t really make sense because it will cause an economic disaster for all countries involved.
There are huge black armoured safes with code locks on many of older TSMC premises.
The rumor is that inside are demolition charges.
And I had a talk with them once on this exact topic. Among them, "the black safe" is an euphemism for the worst case scenario for the company. Nobody they asked exactly knew what is inside, but some people were instructed decades ago that in "worst case scenario," men with military training should open them with code that will be provided, without anything specific said on what will happen next. They said that judging by construction, they look exactly like a something for explosives storage.
I once had my dream of working in semi industry after being fascinated with electronics from early years. I studied physics and electronics engineering by myself like hell through my late teens, and had mentor who connected me with companies in Taiwan, and I almost got my leg in a Taiwanese fabless, though only in an "office bellboy" position.
Despite all of that, and me having a letter of recommendation for NTU and preliminary approval in Nanyang, parents sent me "to study businessy things rich people do"
If I were Apple, I'd start my own joint venture with someone, developing exclusive fabs/nodes for future Apple processors - if only to exert pressure on their fab manufacturing partners like Samsung.