Semiconductors


2022-03-29

ARM-based Server Penetration Rate to Reach 22% by 2025 with Cloud Data Centers Leading the Way, Says TrendForce

According to TrendForce research, corporate demand for digital transformation including artificial intelligence and high-performance computing has accelerated in recent years, which has led to increasing adoption of cloud computing. In order to improve service flexibility, the world’s major cloud service providers have gradually introduced ARM-based servers. The penetration rate of ARM architecture in data center servers is expected to reach 22% by 2025.

In the past few years, ARM architecture processors have matured in the fields of mobile terminals and Internet of Things but progress in the server field has been relatively slow. However, companies have diversified cloud workloads in recent years and the market has begun to pay attention to the benefits ARM architecture processing can provide to data centers. TrendForce believes that ARM-based processors have three major advantages. First, they can support diverse and rapidly changing workloads and are more scalability and cost-effective. Second, ARM-based processors provide higher customization for different niche markets with a more flexible ecosystem. Third, physical footprint is relatively small which meets the needs of today’s micro data centers.

Influenced by geopolitics and the strengthening of data sovereignty in various countries, major cloud service providers and telecom operators are actively developing micro data centers which will further drive the penetration of ARM-based processors. At the same time, from the perspective of cloud service providers currently adopting ARM-based processors, Graviton, led by AWS, has the largest market scale and began encroaching gradually into the market in 2021. TrendForce also observed that AWS’s deployment of ARM-based processors in 2021 reached 15% of overall server deployment and will exceed 20% in 2022. This forces other major cloud service providers to keep up by initiating their own projects at various foundries. If testing is successful, these projects are expected to start mass introduction in 2025.

In addition, according to the Neoverse Platform plan previously released by ARM, its Platform Roadmap will also be one of the key drivers of penetration. This product line is set up to target ultra-large-scale data centers and edge computing infrastructure. However, it is worth mentioning, since x86 is still mainstream in the market and ARM-based server CPU suppliers only maintain small-batch production orders at this stage and primarily focus on ultra-large-scale data centers, introduction of ARM-based servers into enterprise data centers will be slow going. Thus, TrendForce believes that it will still be difficult for ARM-based servers to compete with x86-based servers before 2025.

2022-03-28

[Russia-Ukraine] Pincered by Russian-Ukrainian War and Inflation, DRAM Price Drop Forecast to Continue in 2Q22 by 0-5%, Says TrendForce

According to TrendForce forecasts, average overall DRAM pricing in 2Q22 will drop by approximately 0~5%, due to marginally higher buyer and seller inventories coupled with the demand for products such as PCs, laptops, and smartphones being influenced in the short-term by the Russian-Ukrainian war and high inflation weakening consumer purchasing power. At present, the only remaining source of demand is on the server-side, so overall DRAM stocks will remain oversupplied in 2Q22.

In terms of PC DRAM, PC OEMs are adopting a conservative stocking strategy for orders in 2Q22 due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, which may continue affecting orders during peak season in 2H22, and revising 2022 shipment targets downwards. Additionally, the overall supply of bits is still growing, so the PC DRAM price slump in 2Q22 will further expand to 3~8% and may continue to deteriorate.

In terms of server DRAM, the current server DRAM inventory level held by cloud service providers and enterprise clients is roughly the same as the amount held in 1Q22, and this relatively high inventory level is not enough to support a price reversal. The supply rate of server DRAM, of which there is still an oversupply, remains higher than 100% and this situation will continue into 2Q22. However, a price decline in 2Q22 is expected to converge at 0~5%, coinciding with the peak seasonal stocking surge.

In terms of Mobile DRAM, due to a number of factors such as high inflation, changes in the pandemic situation in various countries, and the Russian-Ukrainian war, it cannot be ruled out that the production volume of smartphones may continue to decline while smartphone brands will surely be more careful when planning production and material preparation. On the supply side, technology migration in manufacturing has offset the shift of DRAM production to the server DRAM field beginning in 2H21, maintaining the level of the mobile DRAM bit supply. For this reason, since the production targets of smartphone brands have fallen and the average memory capacity of a single device has not significantly improved, oversupply is forecast to continue in 2Q22, with pricing set to decline approximately 0~5%.

In terms of Graphics DRAM, the demand side has been affected by weak virtual currency prices in recent months which has gradually started to assuage demand for graphics cards. The supply side is facing supply constraints and a vendor shortage since Micron will withdraw from the GDDR6 8Gb supply in 2Q22. This will cause a temporary supply-demand imbalance for Graphics DRAM as the capacity allocation of Korean manufacturers fail to immediately fill the above-mentioned shortfall. Even if terminal demand slows down, considering GDDR6 8Gb remains mainstream in the current market, it will take time for manufacturers to convert specifications to 16Gb. Pricing is forecast to increase by 0~5% in 2Q22.

In terms of consumer DRAM, demand for DDR3 from specific products such as WiFi 6 and 5G base stations remains robust. The quantity of DRAM supplied to the market varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Samsung and SK Hynix have gradually reduced production of DDR3, while Taiwanese firm Nanya Tech has recently shifted production to DDR3, owing to DDR3’s higher gross profit margin. Due to relatively stable demand and limited shipments from Korean manufacturers, the price of DDR3 will increase by 3~8% in 2Q22 with DDR4 maintaining a downward price trend.

2022-03-24

Amid Rising Volume and Pricing, Top 10 IC Design Companies Post 2021 Revenue Topping US$100 Billion

According to TrendForce research, due to the vigorous stocking of various terminal applications causing a shortage of wafers in 2021, the global IC industry was severely undersupplied. This, coupled with spiking chip prices, boosted the 2021 revenue of the global top ten IC design companies to US$127.4 billion, or 48% YoY.

TrendForce further indicates three major disparities from the 2020 ranking. First, NVIDIA surpassed Broadcom to take the second position. Second, Taiwanese companies Novatek and Realtek rose to sixth and eighth place, respectively. Originally ranked tenth, Dialog was replaced at this position by Himax after Dialog was acquired by IDM giant Renesas.

Qualcomm continues its reign as number one in the world, primarily due to 51% and 63% growth YoY in sales of mobile phone SoC (System on Chip) and IoT chips, respectively. The addition of diversified development in its RF and automotive chip businesses was key to a 51% increase in revenue. NVIDIA implemented the integration of software and hardware, demonstrating its ambitions in creating a “comprehensive computing platform.” Driven by the annual growth of gaming graphics card and data center revenue at 64% and 59%, respectively, NVIDIA successfully climbed to second place. Broadcom benefited from the stable sales performance of network chips, broadband communication chips, and storage and bridging chips, with revenue growing 18% YoY. AMD’s computer and graphics revenue grew by 45% YoY due to strong sales of the Ryzen CPU and Radeon GPU and rising average selling price. Coupled with accelerating demand from cloud companies, the annual revenue of AMD’s enterprise, embedded, and semi-customized divisions increased by 113%, driving annual growth of total revenue to 68%.

In terms of Taiwanese firms, MediaTek’s strategy of focusing on mobile phone SoC has produced miraculous results. Benefiting from an increase in 5G penetration, the sales performance of MediaTek’s mobile phone product portfolio surged by 93% and the company has committed to increasing the proportion of high-end product portfolios, resulting in 61% annual revenue growth. Novatek’s two major product lines of SoC and display driver IC have both grown significantly. Due to improved product specifications, increased shipments, and beneficial pricing gains, revenue grew by 79% YoY, the highest among the top ten. Realtek has been driven by strong demand for Netcom and commercial notebook products, while the performance of audio and Bluetooth chips remains quite stable, conferring an annual revenue growth of 43%. Himax joins the top ten ranking for the first time in 2021. Due to significant annual revenue growth in large-sized and medium/small-sized driver IC of 65% and 87%, respectively, and the successful introduction of driver IC into automotive panels, total revenue exceeded US$1.5 billion, or 74% YoY.

Looking forward to 2022, after AMD completes the acquisition of Xilinx, other players will fill out the rankings. In the broader picture, intensifying demand for high-specification products such as high-performance computing, Netcom, high-speed transmission, servers, automotive, and industrial applications will create good business opportunities for IC design companies and drive overall revenue growth. However, terminal system manufacturers face the correction of component mismatch issues. In addition, growing foundry costs, intensifying geopolitical conflicts, and rising inflation will all be detrimental to global economic growth and may impact an already weakened consumer electronics market. These are the challenges IC design companies face in 2022 and by what means can product sales momentum be maintained within existing production capacity, R&D efficacy strengthened, and chip specifications upgraded, will become the primary focus of development in 2022.

2022-03-17

Strong Quake in Northeastern Japan, Preliminary Assessment Suggests Semiconductor Production Currently Unaffected, Says TrendForce

A powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake occurred off the coast of Fukushima, Japan on the evening of March 16th (CST). Most of northeastern Japan is a production center for global upstream semiconductor raw materials. According to TrendForce investigations, in the main quake zone, only Kioxia’s K1 Fab (located in Kitakami) will face the possibility of a further downgrade to 1Q22 production. Some of the remaining memory or semiconductor companies in the region are conducting machine inspections but the overall impact has been muted.

In terms of memory, the intensity of the earthquake at Kioxia’s K1 Fab reached magnitude 5. When the earthquake occurred, wafer input was partially damaged. At present, K1 Fab has been shut down for inspection. The 1Q22 production capacity of the K1 Fab had been downgraded following the recent contamination incident and accounts for approximately 8% of Kioxia’s 2022 production capacity. Operating under a cloud of possible aftershocks, Kioxia’s capacity utilization rate may be slow to recover in the next week, causing further downward revision of K1 Fab’s 1Q22 production. The remaining Kioxia factories are unaffected, as is Micron’s Hiroshima plant.

Looking at the market spot price, pricing has moved up since February due to the contamination of Kioxia’s raw materials. The Russian-Ukrainian war did not trigger significant upward or downward movements in spot price. After last night’s Fukushima earthquake, pricing remains stable. TrendForce asserts, overall spot demand remains weak and prices are not prone to drastic changes.

In terms of raw wafers, SUMCO’s Yonezawa Plant in Yamagata and Shin-Etsu’s Shirakawa Plant in Fukushima are both within the affected area, experiencing an earthquake intensity of magnitude 5. Due to the extremely high stability required in the crystal growth process, the industry has not yet announced the impact of the quake. TrendForce specifies, in addition to shutdown inspections, damage to machines and silicon wafer input is inevitable. However, in addition to redistributing production plans, buildings were reinforced after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, so overall damage may be minor.

In terms of foundries, there are two 12-inch wafer fabs and two 8-inch wafer fabs in Japan, including UMC Fab12M (12-inch), Tower Uozu (12-inch), Tonami (8-inch), Arai (8 inches), located in Mie, Toyama, and Niigata prefectures, respectively, and separately experiencing quake magnitudes from 1 to 3. At present, these fabs are operating normally and any impact of the quake on the plants are largely insignificant. However, IDM manufacturer Renesas’ Naka plant is within the magnitude 5 zone and they have also shut down and reduced production to confirm the impact of the quake.

2022-03-14

Top 10 Foundries Post Record 4Q21 Performance for 10th Consecutive Quarter at US$29.55B, Says TrendForce

The output value of the world’s top 10 foundries in 4Q21 reached US$29.55 billion, or 8.3% growth QoQ, according to TrendForce’s research. This is due to the interaction of two major factors. One is limited growth in overall production capacity. At present, the shortage of certain components for TVs and laptops has eased but there are other peripheral materials derived from mature process such as PMIC, Wi-Fi, and MCU that are still in short supply, precipitating continued fully loaded foundry capacity. Second is rising average selling price (ASP). In the fourth quarter, more expensive wafers were produced in succession led by TSMC and foundries continued to adjust their product mix to increase ASP. In terms of changes in this quarter’s top 10 ranking, Nexchip overtook incumbent DB Hitek to clinch 10th place.

TrendForce believes that the output value of the world’s top ten foundries will maintain a growth trend in 1Q22 but appreciation in ASP will still be the primary driver of said growth. However, since there are fewer first quarter working days in the Greater China Area due to the Lunar New Year holiday and this is the time when some foundries schedule an annual maintenance period, 1Q22 growth rate will be down slightly compared to 4Q21.

Top 5 foundries account for nearly 90% of global market share, Samsung recovers share with advanced processes

Looking at the top five industry players, TSMC’s 4Q21 revenue reached US$15.75 billion, a QoQ increase of 5.8%. Although 5nm revenue spiked thanks to the new iPhone, 7/6nm revenue dropped due to a weak Chinese smartphone market, becoming the only TSMC node in decline in 4Q21, and inducing a contraction in TSMC revenue growth in 4Q21, though TSMC still accounts for more than 50% of global market share. As one of TSMC’s few competitors in advanced processes below 7nm, Samsung strengthened 4Q21 revenue to US$5.54 billion, a quarterly increase of 15.3% owing to the gradual completion of new advanced 5/4nm process capacity and the mass production of new flagship products from major client Qualcomm. Although Samsung’s foundry business has posted record revenue, the slower ramp-up of advanced process capacity continues to erode overall profitability. Therefore, TrendForce believes that improving advanced process capacity and yield in 1Q22 is one of Samsung’s top priorities.

Constrained by limited growth in new production capacity and the fact that the new wave of wafers contracted at the latest pricing has yet to be produced, UMC’s revenue stalled slightly in 4Q21, to US$2.12 billion, up 5.8% QoQ. GlobalFoundries benefited from the release of new production capacity, product mix optimization, and new long-term agreement (LTA) pricing, pushing up ASP performance. Revenue in 4Q22 hit US$1.85 billion, up 8.6% QoQ. SMIC posted 4Q21 revenue of US$1.58 billion, 11.6% QoQ, due to mounting demand for products such as HV, MCU, Ultra Low Power Logic, and Specialty Memory as well as factors such as product mix adjustment and appreciating ASP.

Surpassing DB Hitek, Nexchip officially breaks into the top 10 in 4Q21

The foundries ranked 6th to 9th are HuaHong Group, PSMC, Vanguard International Semiconductor (VIS), and Tower Semiconductor (Tower), respectively. Each has benefiting from factors such as a utilization rate uniformly at full capacity, release of new production capacity, and adjustment of ASP and product mix, sustaining the growth of revenue performance. It is worth mentioning, the acquisition of Tower by Intel netted Intel mature process technologies and a customer base and expanded the diversity and production capacity of its foundry business. However, before this transaction is officially completed, Tower is still considered an independent entity in terms of the accounting process. TrendForce states, after Intel’s foundry business is properly integrated with Tower, Intel will officially enter the ranking of top ten foundries.

Coming in 10th on the top 10 foundry ranking is Nexchip with revenue of US$352 million and a quarterly growth rate of 44.2%, the fastest growth rate among the top ten, and officially surpassed DB Hitek. According to TrendForce investigations, the primary reason Nexchip was able to break into the top 10 in 4Q21 was the company’s diligent production expansion. Nexchip also plans to develop more advanced processes such as the 55/40/28nm nodes and multiple product lines including TDDI, CIS, and MCU, to compensate for its current single product line and limited customer base. Since Nexchip is currently ramping-up operations quickly, its growth performance in 2022 should not be underestimated.

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