CPU


2021-07-15

Gaming market remains the most hotly contest battleground in the competition among processor suppliers

In recent years, notebook computer (laptop) brands and processor suppliers alike have been actively adjusting their product strategies and business operations in response to behavioral shifts in the way consumers purchase and use computing devices. While notebook brands jostle for superiority in industrial design with improvements to their product appearances every year, competition in the processor industry has been even fiercer. TrendForce’s investigations indicate that the current competitive landscape in the processor industry consists of three developments, indicated below:

First, competition between AMD and Intel. Not only are both companies focused on expanding their respective ecosystems, but they have also been aiming to conquer the gaming market by releasing new products aimed at gamers this year. Apart from making headways in the PC processor market, AMD has introduced the AMD Advantage Design Framework.

AMD Advantage gaming notebooks are certified to meet standards of performance set by the company. AMD hopes that this certification system will allow it to generate a more consolidated gaming ecosystem while raising its brand equity. Intel, on the other hand, has been cultivating its presence in the creator and 5G notebook markets in an attempt to become the primary driver of digital transformation in the post-pandemic era.

Second, the Nvidia-Arm collaboration. This collaboration took place for the purpose of establishing an AI-enabled reference platform for notebook computers. More specifically, Arm’s CPU/NPU/GPU product stack delivers such wide-ranging AI solutions as real-time recognition, vibration detection, and keyword spotting. Following Arm’s successful foray into the PC segment, Nvidia will speed up its release of notebook products, including CPUs based on the Arm architecture.

Third, Qualcomm’s cross-sector ambitions. By architecting always connected notebooks* with Microsoft and Google, Qualcomm is now leveraging its advantages in 5G technology to prepare for upcoming competition with Intel in the 5G services market.


As the aforementioned companies’ presentations at Computex 2021 would suggest, not only do these processor suppliers possess their own competitive technological advantages, but they also share the common goal of upgrading their gaming competencies, including graphics cards, graphics technologies, and cooling performances.

Some of their current offerings aimed at the gaming market include the AMD RX 6000M, Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti/RTX 3070 Ti GPU, and Intel 11th Gen Core H45. Interestingly, the AMD Advantage Design Framework, which certifies OEMs’ gaming notebooks based on the AMD platform, represents the company’s intention to challenge Nvidia’s dominance in the gaming market.

After Nvidia announced its US$40 billion acquisition of Arm last September, the partnership is expected to yield considerable technological synergies by way of the two companies’ AI collaboration. TrendForce believes that, in the long term, Arm Cortex CPUs based on the Armv9 architecture will allow Nvidia to break free from the dominance of Intel and AMD in the notebook CPU market. In particular, Nvidia will be able to cultivate its presence in the high-performance notebook market by combining its existing graphics technology with Arm Cortex CPUs.

Qualcomm’s main impetus for entering the notebook market can be attributed to the fact that the pandemic has brought about a new normal in which consumer adherence to notebook products has become increasingly strong. On the whole, Qualcomm’s cross-sector ambition appears to be on the cusp of victory, given the company’s preexisting 5G competencies and its experience in always-connected applications, advanced camera technologies, immersive audio/visual and display experiences, AI acceleration, and power efficiency for smartphones. As a case in point, Qualcomm is set to release Windows on Snapdragon notebooks as its own 5G *always connected PC platform.

It should be noted that Intel has also adopted MediaTek’s 5G chip technology in 5G connected notebooks featuring “Intel 5G Solution 5000”. On the other hand, Qualcomm is also developing mobile processors aimed at the entry-level always connected 4G/5G notebook market. TrendForce expects competition in the always connected market to generate a fresh wave of replacement demand in the mobile computing market.

*Always connected laptops (notebooks): notebooks that feature modem chips and have a constant internet connection much like smartphones. These notebooks can connect to the internet using 4G/5G networks without the need for Wi-Fi.

(Cover image source: Pixabay)

2021-06-03

Enterprise SSD Prices Projected to Increase by More Than 10% QoQ in 3Q21 Due to Growing Procurement Capacity, Says TrendForce

Enterprise SSD procurement has been rising on the back of growing server shipments since 2Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In particular, the share of 8TB products in shipments of SSDs to data centers has shown the most noticeable growth, which is expected to persist through 3Q21. However, certain SSD components and parts may be in shortage due to insufficient foundry capacity. TrendForce is therefore revising the QoQ hikes in contract prices of enterprise SSDs for 3Q21 to 10-15% from the previous projection of 5-10%.

TrendForce further indicates that the high demand for enterprise SSDs in 3Q21 is attributed to several factors. First, North American cloud service providers (hyperscalers) have pretty much completed their inventory adjustments and now continue to expand their storage capacity. Second, the flow of incoming orders to traditional server brands is getting stronger over the quarters as government agencies and SMBs increase their budgets for IT infrastructure. Third, Intel and AMD are ramping up production for server CPUs based on their respective new processor platforms. Following the adoption of new CPUs, the overall demand for enterprise SSDs has also shifted to higher-density products because clients want to upgrade their computing power and storage capacity. Specifically, demand is mainly trending toward 4/8TB SSDs since raising NAND Flash density can lower the cost of SSD deployment.

Supply leader Samsung will likely gain control over enterprise SSD pricing in the market

Regarding the supply end, Samsung has a higher flexibility in supplying SSDs compared to the other suppliers because it has a higher share of in-house components for its storage products. Therefore, in view of the possible shortage in certain SSD components, Samsung will likely be able to further expand its market share for enterprise SSDs. Furthermore, Samsung’s products are expected to account for more than 50% of enterprise SSDs (in terms of bits) shipped to data centers in North America in 3Q21. This dominance will likely further Samsung’s ability to dictate market prices going forward.

Intel, on the other hand, has been constrained in its ability to manufacture enterprise SSDs due to a shortage of PMICs. In addition, Intel has mostly been fulfilling orders for QLC products. As a result, Intel’s market share may potentially decrease in the TLC-dominant enterprise SSD sector. Regarding other suppliers including Kioxia and SK Hynix, although they have been able to raise their market shares due to gradual adoption of their products by clients, they are unlikely to catch up to Samsung for the time being.

On the PC client SSD front, at the moment, demand for notebook computers has remained strong, while the supply of SSD controller IC is still relatively tight. TrendForce therefore forecasts a slight 3-8% QoQ increase in client SSD contract prices for 3Q21. Regardless, suppliers will not slow down their process migrations. Starting from 3Q21, 176L PC client SSDs will be available on the market, with a corresponding increase in supply bits in the upstream SSD supply chain.

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

Foundry Revenue Projected to Reach Historical High of US$94.6 Billion in 2021 Thanks to High 5G/HPC/End-Device Demand, Says TrendForce

As the global economy enters the post-pandemic era, technologies including 5G, WiFi6/6E, and HPC (high-performance computing) have been advancing rapidly, in turn bringing about a fundamental, structural change in the semiconductor industry as well, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. While the demand for certain devices such as notebook computers and TVs underwent a sharp uptick due to the onset of the stay-at-home economy, this demand will return to pre-pandemic levels once the pandemic has been brought under control as a result of the global vaccination drive.

Nevertheless, the worldwide shift to next-gen telecommunication standards has brought about a replacement demand for telecom and networking devices, and this demand will continue to propel the semiconductor industry, resulting in high capacity utilization rates across the major foundries. As certain foundries continue to expand their production capacities this year, TrendForce expects total foundry revenue to reach a historical high of US$94.6 billion this year, an 11% growth YoY.

TrendForce’s latest analysis also finds that shipments and production volumes of end products will continue to grow in the post-pandemic period. Regarding host computers, the total (or global) shipments of servers and workstations are forecasted to undergo a yearly growth mainly driven by applications that are enabled by 5G and HPC. As for various types of client (or end-user) devices, the annual total production volume of 5G smartphones, in particular, is forecasted to increase by around 113% YoY. The penetration rate of 5G models in the smartphone market is also forecasted to rise to 37% in the same year. Turning to notebook (or laptop) computers, their total shipments in 2021 will register a YoY growth rate of about 15% thanks to the proliferation of the stay-at-home economy.

Finally, the governments of many countries introduced consumption subsidies during the pandemic so as to stimulate the domestic economy. Video streaming services have also grown dramatically with respect to content and demand because of the pandemic. As a result, the TV market is seeing a wave of replacement demand as consumers want to purchase the latest models that offer higher resolutions (e.g., 4K and 8K) and network connectivity (i.e., smart TVs). The total shipments of digital TVs in 2021 are forecasted to undergo a YoY growth rate of around 3%.

The high demand for the aforementioned end devices has therefore resulted in a corresponding surging demand for various ICs used in these devices, including CIS, DDI, and PMICs. In addition, the increasing adoption of cloud services, including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, has also generated a massive demand for various high-end CPUs and memory products used in the HPC platforms that power said cloud services.

On the whole, TrendForce believes that, with demand maintaining a healthy growth momentum for many kinds of end products, semiconductor components that are manufactured with the same foundry nodes will be competing for production capacity. Some categories of ICs will therefore experience a more severe capacity crunch due to the product mix strategies of respective foundries. In the short term, no effective resolution is expected for the undersupply situation in the foundry market.

Certain foundries will continue to expand their production capacities in 2021 as the semiconductor industry undergoes a structural change

With regards to the expansion plans of various foundries this year, tier-one and tier-two foundries will prioritize the development of different process nodes. More specifically, tier-one foundries, including TSMC and Samsung, will focus on the R&D, fab build-out, and capacity expansion for the 5nm and below nodes in response to the growing chip demand for HPC-related applications. On the other hand, tier-two foundries, including SMIC, UMC, and GlobalFoundries will primarily focus on expanding their production capacities of the 14nm to 40nm mature process nodes in order to meet the massive demand for next-gen telecom technologies (such as 5G and WiFi6/6E) and other diverse applications (such as OLED DDI and CIS/ISP).

Incidentally, it should be pointed out that SMIC’s capacity expansion plans have been constrained after the US Department of Commerce added SMIC to the Entity List, which prohibited the company from procuring US semiconductor equipment. However, SMIC still possesses enough funds for procuring non-US equipment and building new fabs, as the company is not only actively expanding its existing 8-inch and 12-inch wafer capacities, but also proceeding with the construction of its new fab in Beijing.

Apart from the aforementioned companies, other foundries, including PSMC, Tower Semiconductor, Vanguard, and HHGrace, will prioritize the capacity expansion of their 8-inch wafers (which are used for the 55nm and above nodes) to meet the demand for large-sized DDI, TDDI, and PMICs. These foundries, in contrast with their larger competitors, are primarily focusing on 8-inch capacity expansion due to the relatively high cost of DUV immersion systems used for the 40/45nm and below processes. For these companies, it is much more economically feasible to instead undertake capacity expansions for the 55/65nm and above nodes.

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

2021-03-25

Revenue of Top 10 IC Design (Fabless) Companies for 2020 Undergoes 26.4% Increase YoY Due to High Demand for Notebooks and Networking Products, Says TrendForce

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 1H20 seemed at first poised to devastate the IC design industry. However, as WFH and distance education became the norm, TrendForce finds that the demand for notebook computers and networking products also spiked in response, in turn driving manufacturers to massively ramp up their procurement activities for components. Fabless IC design companies that supply such components therefore benefitted greatly from manufacturers’ procurement demand, and the IC design industry underwent tremendous growth in 2020. In particular, the top three IC design companies (Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Nvidia) all posted YoY increases in their revenues, with Nvidia registering the most impressive growth, at a staggering 52.2% increase YoY, the highest among the top 10 companies.

According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, Qualcomm was able to overtake Broadcom for the leading position in the top 10 list primarily due to two reasons: First, the sudden demand surge for network devices; and second, Apple’s decision to once again adopt Qualcomm’s baseband processors. Incidentally, US sanctions against Huawei also prompted other smartphone brands to ramp up their production volumes in an attempt to seize additional market shares. Taken together, these factors collectively drove up Qualcomm’s revenue last year. Likewise, although the US-China trade war hampered Broadcom’s performances in 1H20, its smartphone RF front-end became a crucial part of Apple’s supply chain in 2H20. Even so, Broadcom fell to second place in the rankings, since its revenue growth was relatively minor. The Mellanox acquisition substantially bolstered the depth and breadth of Nvidia’s data center solutions, which generated nearly US$6.4 billion in revenue, a 121.2% increase YoY. Owing to its data center solutions and gaming graphics cards, which performed well in the market, Nvidia posted the highest YoY revenue growth among the top 10 companies, at 52.2% as previously mentioned.

The three Taiwanese companies delivered remarkable performances as well. In particular, MediaTek’s revenue underwent a 37.3% YoY increase in 2020, an overwhelming improvement over the 1% YoY increase in 2019. MediaTek’s growth last year took place due to several reasons, including the skyrocketing demand for notebooks and networking products, the success of MediaTek’s 5G smartphone processors, and improved specs as well as cost optimizations for MediaTek’s networking products. Novatek’s revenue grew by 30.1% YoY, as the US-China trade war and the stay-at-home economy brought about by the pandemic resulted in strong sales of its driver ICs and TV SoCs. Finally, Realtek benefitted from the high demand for its various offerings, most notably networking products and notebooks, although sales of its audio products and Bluetooth chips were also respectable. Realtek’s revenue increased by 34.1% YoY.

Capitalizing on the capacity limitations of Intel’s 10nm process, AMD made significant inroads in the notebook, desktop, and server CPU markets, resulting in a $9.7 billion revenue, a remarkable 45% increase YoY. Although Xilinx’s revenue declined by 5.6% YoY in the wake of the US-China trade war, recent QoQ changes in Xilinx’s revenue show that the company is well on its way to recovery going forward.

Although vaccines are being administered across the globe at the moment, the pandemic has yet to show any signs of slowdown in 1Q21. While device manufacturers remain active in procuring components, the shortage of foundry capacities is expected to persist throughout the year. IC design companies are likely to raise IC quotes given the need to ensure sufficient foundry capacities allocated to IC products, in turn propelling IC design revenue to new heights in 2021.

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

2021-03-18

Intel Responds to AMD’s Challenge with Ice Lake CPUs as Competition in Server Market Intensifies, Says TrendForce

The x86 architecture remained the mainstream server architecture at the end of 2020, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In the x86 server segment, Intel took the lead with a 92% market share thanks to the wide-ranging positioning of its solutions. On the other hand, AMD saw its market share rise to nearly 8% in 4Q20, which represents a 3% growth compared to 4Q19. Other server solutions, based on non-x86 architectures, comprised an insignificant portion of the market. TrendForce projects total server shipment to increase by 21% QoQ in 2Q21 owing to the release of Intel’s new Ice Lake platform.

Notably, edge computing, which involves low-latency data processing, has risen to the forefront of server applications in response to the rise of AI and 5G networks. Ideal use cases of edge computing include autonomous driving, IIoT, and other proprietary commercial applications, with relevant vendors already scrambling to deliver solutions aimed at these use cases. With regards to architecture, ARMv8-based solutions are the most suitable for edge computing applications in terms of both cost and power consumption. With the ongoing 5G commercialization, ARMv8 solutions have been occupying a growing share within the total shipment of all ARM solutions, and North American data centers have been the most aggressive in adopting these solutions. TrendForce expects ARMv8 solutions to occupy a respectable share of the low power consumption edge computing market in 2023-2025.

With the upcoming ramp-up in production, Intel’s new Ice Lake CPUs will likely account for 40% of Intel CPU shipment in 4Q21

As previously mentioned, Intel’s x86 CPUs are the mainstream among server platforms. With regards to Intel’s server roadmap, the company has started shipping a small batch of Whitley Ice Lake CPUs to its clients in the data center segment in 1Q21, while bulk shipment to branded server manufacturers is expected to take place in 2Q21. At the same time, Intel expects Whitley Ice Lake CPUs to account for about 40% of Intel’s CPU shipment in 4Q21, although adoption by buyers remains to be seen.

In terms of specifications, the Whitley platform allows Ice Lake CPUs to be compatible with the fastest DDR4 standards and therefore provides a major improvement in both data transfer rate (MT/s) and maximum capacity of DRAM supported per CPU. The Whitley platform will effectively increase the average DRAM storage capacity of servers, leading to faster and more advanced virtualization applications while improving data streaming performances in data centers. On the whole, not only does the Whitley platform increase the Ice Lake CPU’s cloud computing capabilities, but it also allows Intel to catch up to AMD’s Rome platform, in turn further strengthening Intel’s leadership position in the server market. As such, buyers will likely adopt the Whitley platform given the increased server demand generated by the post-pandemic new normal. Incidentally, although AMD’s mass-produced server solutions are slightly superior to competing offerings from Intel in terms of specs and pricing, AMD will not make significant adjustments in its upcoming Milan platform. AMD will therefore unlikely be a factor that propels the overall bit demand for server DRAM.

In the competition among server CPUs with respect to the data transfer rate, the Whitley Ice Lake is Intel’s first server processor platform that supports PCIe Gen 4. Although AMD was already mass producing server CPUs featuring PCIe Gen 4 support in 2020, Intel will likely be more effective in leveraging this advantage across the application ecosystem. The reason is that Intel is the long-time leader in server CPUs and controls the lion’s share of the market. Furthermore, Intel aims to synergize its latest server CPUs with the second generation of its Optane SSDs. Working together, they are expected to significantly enhance the computing performance of servers for the applications that will become mainstream in the future (e.g., AI and machine learning). TrendForce believes that the penetration rate of PCIe Gen 4 will rise rapidly in 2H21 as Intel and AMD step up shipments of CPUs that support this interface.

Regarding the implementation of the support for DDR5 and PCIe Gen 5, both Intel and AMD have already begun sending samples of related products to their clients in 1Q21. Intel plans to begin mass production for server CPUs belonging to the Eagle Stream platform at the start of 2022. Since the Eagle Stream is designed to support PCIe Gen 5, it will provide another significant boost to the data transfer rate. As for AMD, it plans to commence mass production for server CPUs based on the Genoa platform in 2Q22.

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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