TIRIAS Research Newsletter for October 10, 2018

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TIRIAS RESEARCH NEWSLETTER
October 10, 2018

Topics: Last Call for the Special Offer for Arm Techcon; New Intel Processors, Apple vs. Qualcomm, Xilinx XDF, and more

by TIRIAS Research (left to right: Jim McGregor & Kevin Krewell)
(Formerly Wireless / DSP Newsletter)

Fall is in the air and the news cycle is back in swing. We continue to see sharp interest in machine learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and some pickup in Quantum Computing.

We always encourage you to check our website at www.TIRIASresearch.com for our latest reports and whitepapers.

Topic: Special Offer for Arm Techcon

TIRIAS Research is pleased to offer readers of our newsletter a $300 discount for ARM’s Techcon. Arm Techcon is the definitive yearly conference for and about the Arm ecosystem. If you develop for Arm or use Arm Ip in your chips, you should be at this conference.
Code: 18ARMTIRIAS
Expires: 10/15/2018
Visit the Arm Techcon website to register. [https://www.armtechcon.com/index.html]
Arm TechCon is a comprehensive technology event for silicon, system and software developers. TechCon highlights the industry’s most extensive ecosystem that extends from embedded to consumer to cloud applications. The 2018 conference includes tracks on:

  • Automotive, Industrial & Functional Safety
  • Connected Devices & Cloud Services
  • Edge Computing & Machine Learning
  • Embedded Software Development
  • High Efficiency
  • System Design Methodology
  • Trust and Security

In addition, TIRIAS Research Principal Analyst Jim McGregor will be speaking on Tuesday, October 16th, at TechCon on the different solutions for AI processing at the edge and which applications will benefit from each solution. [https://schedule.techcon.arm.com/SessionDetail.aspx?id=480597]

Intel’s new CPUs takes AMD head on.

Under pressure from AMD’s Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs, Intel has pushed out new processors. Those include an 8-core (16 thread) 9th generation Intel core i9-9900K and a 28-core (56 threads) Intel Xeon W-3175X. And for the first time in a long time, these products were announced complete with a suite of benchmarks against arch-rival AMD. In the past, Intel’s only competition was from its own, slightly older processors. Intel pushed the 14++ process a bit harder to crank up integer performance by around 10% (still no sign of volume 10nm). With a newer AVX512 SIMD unit, media processing up significantly (~34%) if the application uses the extensions). Intel also dropped a new 28-core Xeon processor that aims to compete with AMD’s 32-core 2990WX Ryzen Threadripper, which has been shipping since August.

Taking a page from AMD’s book, Intel focused these processors at gamers and creative professionals. While the Intel part only has 28 cores, four short of the AMD Threadripper, Intel’s part has a monolithic die, which will improve overall cache and memory access. The AMD Ryzen 2990WX Threadripper has a base frequency of 3.0 GHz and a top turbo frequency of 4.2 GHz. The Intel Xeon W-3175X processor has base clock speed of 3.1 GHz, and can be boosted to 4.3GHz, similar to the AMD part. The Xeon is set to ship later this year in December, but pricing has not been announced.

The more mainstream part will be the eight-core Core i9-9900K with a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz, which can be boosted up to 5.0 GHz until thermal limits are reached. The i9 9900K is priced under $500, which is clearly priced to be competitive with AMD. Without AMD, Intel could have priced the part over $1,000. The top AMD part is the Ryzen 7 2700X, with a base clock of 3.7GHz and a maximum boost clock of 4.3GHz. Intel has the edge in boost clock speeds, but base clocks are very similar.

But Intel came out fighting and its game on between AMD and Intel again!

Yet Intel still can’t ship 10nm in volume and now there’s a 14nm shortage

With no news on a new Intel CEO, the company seems rudderless. Intel continues to struggle with manufacturing on the newer 10nm process node, while competition in its core PC and server markets from AMD is intensifying. While we still think the board will pick an Intel insider, TIRIAS Research believes that it will be beneficial to bring in new leadership, with a new vision for the company, from the outside.

Xilinx steps up at XDF

Xilinx has embraced heterogeneous computing and is stepping up its game to compete with NVIDIA and Intel/Altera in the data center. At the recent Xilinx Developer Forum (XDF18) the company chose to release details of its ACAP architecture and announce the first family of products for this new category. This first product is called Versal and includes six different variations. Each variation will target different application specific markets. Being an FPGA supplier, the company is familiar with delivering diverse product lines. Unlike CPUs and GPUs which have relatively straightforward variations in speed and memory, FPGAs come in a wide range of variations with various amounts of memory, programmability and accelerators. It is more difficult for an FPGA supplier to supply a just few key products, because it’s difficult to determine where the product volume will come from. As a result, the company must provide a diverse offering to enable a broad range of applications. The first two members of the Versal family will be called Versal Prime and Versal AI Core and will be manufactured in TSMC’s 7nm process. Prime and AI Core are expected to ship in 2H19.

Prime is a midrange ACAP that includes dual Arm Cortex-A72 CPUs, dual Cortex R-5 real-time CPUs, DSPs and an enhanced FPGA fabric, which Xilinx now refers to as the Adaptability Hardware Engines. The DSPs are enhanced versions of the Xilinx UltraScale DSP slice. The AI Core version of the product will have AI accelerating engines as a major focal point. These are dedicated processors that can handle neural net processing. In addition, the Adaptability HW Engines can be customized for AI inferencing with fully programmable bit widths.

One of the key differentiations between Versal and other Xilinx FPGAs is that there is a network on chip (NOC) that ties the various elements together, rather than relying on the programmable fabric of the FPGA. This gives Versal much greater cross-chip bandwidth. The NOC was developed in-house and has very specific requirements to allow more flexibility than traditional SoC NOCs with fast local connections and the ability to sub-divide the on-chip network.

Xilinx is also bringing to market a series of board level products with its UltraScale FPGA accelerators called Alveo. The initial products use the high-performance FPGAs is data center applications such as AI inference, video processing, genome sequencing, etc. While the company did not announce versions of Alveo that include Versal, we expect to see those next year.

Apple vs. Qualcomm

In the ongoing battle between Apple and Qualcomm, Qualcomm won a decision with the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) that Apple infringed on one of the three patents. However, the commission did not support banning shipments of the infringing products into the US. So, the victory appears to be of little consequence for the moment. However, the determination of infringement may play a factor in the final decision by the entire commission and one of the many court cases around the world that are pending between the two companies. The decision did result of a war of words between the two companies that are essentially sparing over the intellectual property (IP) license rates that Qualcomm charges. Apple continues to attack Qualcomm even though Apple already pays less than all other vendors because of the pre-existing agreements with Apple’s contract manufacturers.

With several of the court cases scheduled for later this year, TIRIAS Research believes that the two companies will eventually reach an agreement before the wave of 5G products starts shipping. Qualcomm could also benefit from a windfall of unpaid royalties that Apple has directed its contract manufacturers to withhold. Some estimates by the financial community place this upwards of $5 billion.

Arm Research Summit

As the Arm ecosystem continues to expand into almost every electronic application, including high-performance computers (HPC), Arm the company is also expanding in terms of its products, research, and support for a growing ecosystem. This was on display at Arm’s Annual Research Summit that featured presentations from researchers around the world on a variety of topics ranging from the vectorizing of processor to bioengineering. The range and scope of the presentations was impressive and demonstrates how an IP company that’s a fraction of the size of its largest competitor, is now influencing the market and research organizations around the world. Being part of Softbank adds additional influence as well. The event was hosted at Cambridge University in Cambridge, UK, but according to Arm, there may be additional events in other regions in the future.

HP Goes Leather with Spectre Folio

HP’s latest convertible features a leather skin for the fashionistas. Despite this odd addition to the HP lineup, the Spectre Folio is a very flexible platform that offers a number of upgrades. It comes standard with a 256GB SSD but can be upgraded to a 2T drive; the display can be upgraded to 4k, and there is a gigabit LTE SIM and eSIM option supported by AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint – sorry Verizon users. HP is claiming 18 hours a battery life with an Intel Core i5 processor. We have only seen this level of battery life from the Snapdragon-based always-connected PCs (ACPCs), so we are a bit skeptical. However, we will hold out judgement until we have an opportunity to test the PC. Prices on the new Spectre Folio start at $1299.

5G is Coming – Really

Some of the hype around 5G wireless solutions has died down over the past month, but this is just the calm before the storm. Carriers around the globe are testing out the first 5G networks that will be online in selected cities as the first 5G devices are announced later this year and at CES. The 5G tidal wave will be crashing at Mobile World Congress in February as the first 5G smartphones are launched. From everything we have seen, the rollout of 5G will be quicker than previous wireless generations and on a global basis. While the entire industry will eventually benefit from 5G, the early companies that are powering the transition ranging from silicon providers like Qualcomm and network providers Ericsson and Huawei will be the big winners with 5G starting in 2019.

September Brings New Apple iPhones

Apple had its annual launch event where it introduced the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr based on the company’s new A12 processor and at the usual sky-high prices. Unfortunately, there have been some reception issues with some of the new devices. Apple also introduce the Apple Watch Series 4 with some enhanced biometric capabilities making it a true health and smartwatch crossover product.

Several other mobile vendors made announcements at IFA prior to the Apple event. Nubia announced a wearable smartphone that looks like a Fitbit on steroids, Huawei announced new colors and a leather option for the P20 if you live in China, Motorola announced the One and One Power smartphones, and ZTE announced the Axon 9 among others. Most of the smartphones were in the mid-range category with vendors seeming to wait for MWC in Barcelona to introduce the next generation of flagship phones with 5G.

IFA also saw a slew of new PC announcements all with better displays and incremental performance improvements, but like the smartphones, nothing with the “wow” factor. The entire industry, including Apple, seems to be struggling with no next big thing and only incremental enhancements to existing platforms. Microsoft’s black Surface laptops and tablet and HP’s leather Portfolio 2in1s indicate that technology has stalled, and companies are turning to product design and aesthetics for differentiation. The next big consumer device may just be the autonomous car.

AI Hardware Summit

2018 has been the hype year around AI with an endless list of new chip start-ups focused on AI, but the haze is starting to clear and several companies appear closer to producing new chips. Graphcore, Wave Computing, and Gyrfalcon are three start-ups that have silicon solutions in various forms of evaluation or production today with several more anticipated throughout the end of the year. Additionally, several companies are offering IP accelerators such as Arm, Cadence (formerly Tensilica), and CEVA. Even analog computing is having a revival as a power-efficient inference solution with Mythic. At the inaugural AI Hardware Summit, Habana Labs from Israel came out of stealth with a chip with impressive inference scales and modest power. In addition, we are starting to see many of these companies focus on specific applications or market segments ranges from edge devices to the network edge to the cloud. Those focused on the cloud all seem determined to knock NVIDIA off the AI throne, but that seems unlikely at this point. In the long run, the volume will be inference, where the AI meets the real world.

Crypto What Again?

The second quarter seemed to mark the slowing of the crypto currency craze as the appetite for the currencies themselves appeared to dry up as well as the insatiable demand for graphics cards to do cryto mining. Both AMD and NVIDIA adjusted their outlook to not count on further demand from the segment and pricing of the cards has finally returned to more reasonable levels. Most Crypto mining is migrating to ASICs but is highly dependent on the volatile prices.

The Trade War Takes Its Toll

It’s the early stages of the trade dispute between China and the US. Semiconductors and (so far) most consumer electronics appeared to be unscathed. In fact, the US administration has even made efforts to ensure certain companies, like Apple, which manufacture in China, are not impacted by tariffs. However, as the list of products and the size of the tariffs increases, the entire industry is starting to feel the impact, especially in industrial applications. Unfortunately, there appears to be no end in sight to the trade dispute. As a result, TIRIAS Research believes that 2019 industry growth and revenues will be negatively impacted by the trade war and the effects will belong felt. Even if the dispute and tariffs end tomorrow, it may take two years of more to recover from the lost momentum. In addition, the tariffs are going to force companies on both sides to seek new product and manufacturing strategies that may result in a lost opportunity that may never be recovered.

Semiconductor Demand Cycles

Wall Street has been punishing semiconductor stocks lately in anticipation of an inventory correction and swing in demand cycles. While supply and demand for memory are becoming more aligned, overall semiconductor demand is forecast to remains healthy through the end of 2018 and into 2019. The trade wars are causing some hesitation and concern, but there are few indications that a major correction or downturn are in the cards for the next 6 months. However, TIRIAS Research is concerned about the long-term health of the global economy and how long the current expansion can continue. We feel that the general economic conditions are the greatest threat to the industry right now, but we are hesitant to predict what will trigger the next downturn.

Recent Articles by TIRIAS Research

IBM and Quantum

Wireless charging

Qualcomm Wearables

The Winds Are Changing In Servers – AI Leads To Opportunity for IBM & Power

NVIDIA Brings AI To Medical With Clara

TIRIAScast Podcasts

All the TIRIAScast podcasts can be found on SoundCloud.

TIRIAS Research Whitepapers

Recent whitepapers of note include:

AMD Optimizes EPYC Memory with NUMA

This TIRIAS Research whitepaper looks at how AMD designed the EPYC server chip, balancing between system cost, die area, memory bandwidth, and memory latency. AMD achieved that goal by using the efficiencies of multichip module (MCM) technology and the company’s new Infinity Fabric (IF) technology.

The Instantaneous Cloud: Emerging Consumer Applications of 5G Wireless Networks sponsored by NGCodec.

To support the 5G Cloud VR SIG, TIRIAS Research has released its latest whitepaper. TIRIAS Research tracks the intersection of emerging technology and the invention of new applications. Emerging 5G networks will carry consumer context and input into the cloud, and stream contextual or graphically intense experiences back down to users with low latency, nearly eliminating our ability to perceive lag in even the most sophisticated and immersive user experiences. New applications which take advantage of fast response and high sustained bandwidth can form an instantaneous cloud which provides visually immersive experiences directly to consumers. Key technologies include cloud experience engines, graphics rendering, and video encoding. Architectures include cloud-edge computing with servers designed specifically for streaming high performance graphics experiences, virtualized and available to mobile users from the cloud.

All our whitepapers can be found here.

TIRIAS Researchers Around the Globe!

Find TIRIAS Research at these events.

  • Arm Techcon, San Jose, CA, October (Kevin Krewell & Jim McGregor)
  • SC18, Dallas, Texas, November (Kevin Krewell)

For meetings with the TIRIAS Research staff, please reach out to the analyst.

If you have any questions, please email us at Newsletter@tiriasresearch.com.

As always, we encourage your feedback
Kevin Krewell, Jim McGregor

TIRIAS Research is a high-tech research and advisory firm, an independent third-party resource to high-tech companies. We provide custom research and advisory services on technologies, markets and ecosystems to a select group of technology industry leaders. Our Principal Analysts have decades of in-depth expertise in silicon, software, and systems specification, design and deployment.

About us.

Domain: Electronics
Category: Semiconductors
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