Semiconductors


2021-05-12

Foxconn Dominates ODM Server Market by Taking Nearly 50% of AWS/Azure Server Business

The “new normal” in the post-pandemic era has seen the meteoric rise of high-speed and high-bandwidth 5G applications, which subsequently brought about a corresponding increase in cloud services demand. As such, the global server shipment for 2021 will likely reach 13.6 million units, a 5.4% increase YoY. As commercial opportunities in white-box servers begin to emerge, Taiwanese ODMs, including Quanta, Wiwynn, and Foxconn are likely to benefit.

The prevailing business model of the server supply chain involves having the ODM responsible for the design, hardware installation, and assembly processes, after which servers are delivered to server brands (such as HPE, Dell, Inspur, and Lenovo), which then sell the servers to end-clients. In contrast, a new business model has recently started to emerge; this business model involves having server ODMs responsible for manufacturing specific and customized server hardware, available directly for purchase by such end-clients as cloud service providers, thereby bypassing brands as the middlemen.

With regards to market share, Foxconn accounts for nearly half of the total server demand from Microsoft Azure and from AWS, while Quanta accounts for about 60-65% of Facebook’s server demand.

According to TrendForce’s investigations, ODMs including Quanta, Inventec, Foxconn, Wiwynn, and QCT have all received server orders from clients in the cloud services sector in 1H21. In particular, both Quanta and Inventec received orders from Microsoft Azure, AWS, Facebook, and Google Cloud. With regards to market share, Foxconn accounts for nearly half of the total server demand from Microsoft Azure and from AWS, while Quanta accounts for about 60-65% of Facebook’s server demand, in turn giving Foxconn and Quanta the lion’s shares in the ODM market.

The aforementioned Taiwanese ODMs have been aggressive in growing their presence in the private industrial 5G network and edge computing markets, with Quanta subsidiary QCT being a good case in point as an ODM that supplies servers to both telecom operators and private industrial networks for these clients’ respective 5G infrastructures build-outs.

More specifically, QCT stated the following in a press release dated Jan. 4, 2021:

“Quanta Cloud Technology (QCT), a global data center solution provider, independently developed Taiwan’s first 5G standalone (SA) core network, which recently passed interoperability and performance verifications for 5G Open Network Lab operated by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). The core network was successfully connected to partner radio access networks (RAN) and third-party user equipment, realizing end-to-end 5G signal transmission from edge to core and achieving significant acceleration in both uplink and downlink speeds.”

In response to the edge computing demand generated by global 5G commercialization efforts, Wiwynn recently released the EP100 server, which is a 5G edge computing solution compliant with the OCP openEDGE specification. Developed in collaboration with U.S.-based 5G software solutions provider Radisys, the EP100 can function as an O-DU or an O-CU depending on the various 5G RAN needs of telecom operators.

Furthermore, Wiwynn is continuing to develop the next generation of edge computing servers targeted at the enterprise networking and edge computing segments.

Foxconn, on the other hand, has been focusing on developing vertical solutions for private industrial 5G networks. Foxconn’s hardware infrastructure offerings include edge computing servers, TSN network switches, and gateways. The company also offers a slew of software solutions such as data management platforms and other apps, hosted by Asia Pacific Telecom. Last but not least, Foxconn recently announced an additional US$35.6 million investment in its Wisconsin project; this injection of capital will make the company well equipped to meet the demand for servers as well as 5G O-RAN and other telecom equipment.

(Cover image source:Pixabay)

2021-05-12

Despite Domestic Drought, Taiwan Remains King in the World of Semiconductors

A small subtropical island off the coast of southeast China, Taiwan is subject to certain cyclical weather changes throughout the year, the most notorious of which is its yearly typhoons that at different times benefit its agricultural industry and cause various natural disasters.

Much like everything else that happened in 2020, last year marked a stark exception for the island’s climate, which saw no typhoons, resulting in a relatively dry year. Compounding the issue is the current season of low precipitation. Taken together, these factors have since resulted in a significant drought that required an all-hands-on-deck approach from the government, such as rationing water on specific weekdays and advising industries to cut down on water consumption.

Meanwhile, a similar drought has been taking place in the global semiconductor world. As the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year brought fundamental changes to the way we work, study, and live, so too has the general public’s consumption of electronic devices – and, in turn, the worldwide demand for chips used in these devices – risen.

If there are bumps in the road to Taiwanese foundries’ continued dominance, lack of rain certainly isn’t one.

Seeing as how Taiwan is the central hub of the world’s advanced semiconductor technologies, acts as home to industry leader TSMC (which is the exclusive supplier of Apple’s M1 processors), and accounts for more than half of the world’s chip manufacturing capacity, industries and media alike are fearing that the domestic drought will exacerbate the current global chip shortage, since chip fabrication processes require enormous amounts of clean water.

However, true to its market leadership, the Taiwanese semiconductor industry has so far remained unaffected, at least on the supply side, by the water shortage. This is in part due to the fact that domestic foundries (i.e., chip manufacturers) have previously completed numerous drills related to worst-case scenarios of long droughts and are accordingly well prepared in these extenuating circumstances. Furthermore, the foundries also signed contracts with utility companies to ensure an ample supply of water to keep fabs (semiconductor fabrication plants) running via water tank trucks.

TrendForce therefore expects domestic foundry operations to continue unabated for the time being. Case in point, on April 15, TSMC announced an increased capital expenditure of US$30 billion for 2021. The foundry is also actively expanding its production capacity of mature technology processes in response to the growing demand from clients worldwide.

In the world of semiconductors, advancements in process technologies occupy merely one part of the equation when it comes to long-term success. Other requirements pertain to governmental, infrastructural, climate, procedural, and talent-related dimensions, just to name a few.

While Taiwanese foundries look for a way out of the ongoing drought, they are not only acing these requirements in spades, but also staying in the spotlight of the electronics supply chain in light of geopolitical tensions, oligopolistic market trends, and the persistent global health crisis. If there are bumps in the road to Taiwanese foundries’ continued dominance, lack of rain certainly isn’t one.

(Cover image source:Taiwan Water Resources Agency)

2021-04-28

DRAM Prices Projected to Rise by 18-23% QoQ in 2Q21 Owing to Peak Season Demand, Says TrendForce

TrendForce’s investigations find that DRAM suppliers and major PC OEMs are currently participating in the critical period of negotiating with each other over contract prices for 2Q21. Although these negotiations have yet to be finalized, the ASP of mainstream DDR4 1G*8 2666Mbps modules has already increased by nearly 25% QoQ as of now, according to data on ongoing transactions.

This represents a higher price hike than TrendForce’s prior forecast of “nearly 20%”. On the other hand, prices are likewise rising across various DRAM product categories in 2Q21, including DDR3/4 specialty DRAM, mobile DRAM, graphics DRAM, and in particular server DRAM, which is highly related to PC DRAM and is therefore also undergoing a higher price hike than previously expected. TrendForce is therefore revising up its forecast of overall DRAM price hike for 2Q21 from 13-18% QoQ to 18-23% QoQ instead. However, the actual increase in prices of various DRAM product categories will depend on the production capacities allocated to the respective products by DRAM suppliers.

PC DRAM prices are now expected to undergo a 23-28% QoQ growth in 2Q21 due to the increased production of notebook computers

PC DRAM contract prices are rising by a higher margin than previously expected for 2Q21 primarily because major PC OEMs are now aggressively expanding their production targets. Furthermore, as second quarters are generally peak seasons for notebook production, PC ODMs are now estimated to increase their quarterly production of notebook computers by about 7.9% QoQ in 2Q21. Finally, with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination rates remain relatively low across the globe, meaning WFH and distance education are likely to persist and create continued demand for notebook computers, thereby further expanding the hike in PC DRAM prices.

DRAM Suppliers will enjoy increased bargaining power in price negotiations as server DRAM prices are expected to increase by 20-25% QoQ in 2Q21

Apart from the issue of short DRAM supply, server DRAM procurement in 2Q21 has benefitted from the positive turn in the view of enterprises toward IT investments as well as the stronger-than-expected demand related to cloud migration. There was already a supply gap in 1Q21, and these developments will further drive up demand in 2Q21. Hence, difficulty has increased for buyers and suppliers in reaching an agreement on price. Suppliers are in a more advantageous position in contract negotiations since the DRAM market is an oligopoly. Therefore, compared to the previous forecast of nearly 20%, TrendForce is now expecting server DRAM contract prices to increase by 20-25% QoQ in 2Q21.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-04-28

GCP, AWS Projected to Become Main Drivers of Global Server Demand with 25-30% YoY Increase in Server Procurement, Says TrendForce

Thanks to their flexible pricing schemes and diverse service offerings, CSPs have been a direct, major driver of enterprise demand for cloud services, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As such, the rise of CSPs have in turn brought about a gradual shift in the prevailing business model of server supply chains from sales of traditional branded servers (that is, server OEMs) to ODM Direct sales instead.

Incidentally, the global public cloud market operates as an oligopoly dominated by North American companies including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), which collectively possess an above-50% share in this market. More specifically, GCP and AWS are the most aggressive in their data center build-outs. Each of these two companies is expected to increase its server procurement by 25-30% YoY this year, followed closely by Azure.

TrendForce indicates that, in order to expand the presence of their respective ecosystems in the cloud services market, the aforementioned three CSPs have begun collaborating with various countries’ domestic CSPs and telecom operators in compliance with data residency and data sovereignty regulations. For instance, thanks to the accelerating data transformation efforts taking place in the APAC regions, Google is ramping up its supply chain strategies for 2021.

As part of Google’s efforts at building out and refreshing its data centers, not only is the company stocking up on more weeks’ worth of memory products, but it has also been increasing its server orders since 4Q20, in turn leading its ODM partners to expand their SMT capacities. As for AWS, the company has benefitted from activities driven by the post-pandemic new normal, including WFH and enterprise cloud migrations, both of which are major sources of data consumption for AWS’ public cloud.

Conversely, Microsoft Azure will adopt a relatively more cautious and conservative approach to server procurement, likely because the Ice Lake-based server platforms used to power Azure services have yet to enter mass production. In other words, only after these Ice Lake servers enter mass production will Microsoft likely ramp up its server procurement in 2H21, during which TrendForce expects Microsoft’s peak server demand to take place, resulting in a 10-15% YoY growth in server procurement for the entirety of 2021.

Finally, compared to its three competitors, Facebook will experience a relatively more stable growth in server procurement owing to two factors. First, the implementation of GDPR in the EU and the resultant data sovereignty implications mean that data gathered on EU residents are now subject to their respective country’s legal regulations, and therefore more servers are now required to keep up the domestic data processing and storage needs that arise from the GDPR. Secondly, most servers used by Facebook are custom spec’ed to the company’s requirements, and Facebook’s server needs are accordingly higher than its competitors’. As such, TrendForce forecasts a double-digit YoY growth in Facebook’s server procurement this year.

Chinese CSPs are limited in their pace of expansions, while Tencent stands out with a 10% YoY increase in server demand

On the other hand, Chinese CSPs are expected to be relatively weak in terms of server demand this year due to their relatively limited pace of expansion and service areas. Case in point, Alicloud is currently planning to procure the same volume of servers as it did last year, and the company will ramp up its server procurement going forward only after the Chinese government implements its new infrastructure policies. Tencent, which is the other dominant Chinese CSP, will benefit from increased commercial activities from domestic online service platforms, including JD, Meituan, and Kuaishou, and therefore experience a corresponding growth in its server colocation business.

Tencent’s demand for servers this year is expected to increase by about 10% YoY. Baidu will primarily focus on autonomous driving projects this year. There will be a slight YoY increase in Baidu’s server procurement for 2021, mostly thanks to its increased demand for roadside servers used in autonomous driving applications. Finally, with regards to Bytedance, its server procurement will undergo a 10-15% YoY decrease since it will look to adopt colocation services rather than run its own servers in the overseas markets due to its shrinking presence in those markets.

Looking ahead, TrendForce believes that as enterprise clients become more familiar with various cloud services and related technologies, the competition in the cloud market will no longer be confined within the traditional segments of computing, storage, and networking infrastructure. The major CSPs will pay greater attention to the emerging fields such as edge computing as well as the software-hardware integration for the related services.

With the commercialization of 5G services that is taking place worldwide, the concept of “cloud, edge, and device” will replace the current “cloud” framework. This means that cloud services will not be limited to software in the future because cloud service providers may also want to offer their branded hardware in order to make their solutions more comprehensive or all-encompassing. Hence, TrendForce expects hardware to be the next battleground for CSPs.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-04-28

Impact of Power Outage on TSMC Fab14 P7 Still Remaining Under Assessment, with Production of Automotive MCU and CIS Logic Products Hit Hardest, Says TrendForce

TSMC’s Fab14 P7 in the Southern Taiwan Science Park suffered a power outage on April 14th. The cause of the power outage was an accidental severing of an underground power cable during construction work nearby. According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, the facility accounts for around 4% of TSMC’s total 12-inch wafer foundry capacity and around 2% of the global 12-inch wafer foundry capacity, and TSMC is still assessing the exact figures for the wafers that have to be scrapped and the wafers that can be reworked.

According to the latest available information, power was fully restored to the fab site at 7:30 p.m. on April 14th. The diesel uninterruptible power supply (DUPS) of the facility kicked in instantly when the power cable was cut, but there was still a short period of power interruption and voltage drop. As a result, some of the equipment systems in the facility temporarily experienced operational irregularity or malfunction. Based on past experiences with this type of incident, TrendForce believes that it will take 2-7 days to recalibrate the equipment systems so that they can return to normal operation.

For TSMC, this power outage incident has had implications on both revenue and production. With respect to revenue, TrendForce’s own analysis indicates that the disposal of the wafers that are too damaged for rework will bring about a revenue impact of US$10-25 million. This amount represents less than 0.1% of TSMC’s annual total revenue.

On the other hand, with respect to production, the Fab14 P7 facilities contain 45/40nm and 16/12nm production lines, and the outage will primarily impair end products including smartphones and automobiles, since automotive chips, which are in extreme shortage at the moment, are manufactured at the 45/40nm nodes, and 45/40nm capacities are among the most insufficient among all foundry capacities.

TrendForce further indicates that clients whose wafer inputs for automotive MCU and CIS logic products (manufactured at the 45/40nm nodes) are bearing the brunt of the outage’s impact mainly include NXP, Renesas, and Sony. In particular, Sony CIS 40nm Logic products are primarily supplied for high-end smartphones. However, as Sony manufactures these products in its in-house facilities as well, even if TSMC were to fully discard this batch of wafers, Sony’s supplies will remain relatively unaffected in the short run.

On the other hand, after the automotive market entered a gradual recovery in 2H20, automotive MCUs have been in shortage due to automakers’ insufficient inventory. Furthermore, a fire broke out at Renesas’ Naka-based 12-inch fab on March 19, and the fab’s cleanrooms were severely damaged as a result.

As of now, manufacturing operations at the Naka fab have yet to resume. Since TSMC has been allocating some of its production capacities in Fab14 to these products as a substitute for the Naka fab, TrendForce believes that the power outage incident will likely exacerbate the shortage of automotive MCUs going forward.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

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