Bit noise: chip shortage without end, chip IPOs and a neuroprocessor

Fighting the chip shortage is heating up tempers. Globalfoundries wants to go public. Intel manufactures an NPU in a semi-finished manufacturing process.

The US government’s chip inventory has kicked up some dust: as reported in the last bit noise, the US polls -Department of Commerce currently major chip manufacturers, distributors and chip buyers. The aim is to find the ‘true’ identify needs; among other things, the US government is assuming that some companies are hoarding chips.

This action got contract manufacturers like TSMC into trouble because secrecy is their most important virtue: Direct competitors like AMD, Nvidia and Intel order from TSMC, Qualcomm and Mediatek. At the slightest suspicion that TSMC is leaking confidential information, customers leave. In Taiwan, even the Economics Minister and the National Development Council commented on the curious questions from the USA.

A remark from the TSMC boss Mark Liu made people sit up and take notice: Of course we know that some companies hoard chips. Liu didn’t want to reveal more, but it’s basically logical: Anyone who was clever suspected that bottlenecks were imminent by mid-2020 at the latest and stocked up. Who wants to risk not being able to deliver a 4K television for 1200 euros because a 50 cent component is missing. As a result, many companies filled their warehouses. It’s like buying toilet paper during lockdown times: where does sensible provision end, where does hamstering begin? Anyone standing in front of empty shelves is in a bad mood. Customers are expected to wait until at least mid-2022 for some chips, including simple 1-euro microcontrollers such as the STM32 from EU manufacturer STMicroelectronics.

The situation is particularly difficult for Taiwan: on the one hand, the government coddled chip industry a lot of money into the country and you don’t want to let anyone talk you into it. On the other hand, one does not want to annoy the protecting power USA – especially not when the People’s Republic of China is sending fighter jets towards Taiwan on October 1st, the day it was founded.

The US contract manufacturer GF aka Globalfoundries, previously owned by the Arab government fund Mubadala wants to go public – now officially after years of speculation. In order to keep up with the billions invested by TSMC, Samsung and Intel, GF needs a lot of fresh money. An IPO date has not yet been set. The smaller Taiwanese contract manufacturer Powerchip also wants to go public – in the current boom in demand contract manufacturers are doing brilliantly.

In the EU, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton is pushing for a “European Chip Act” to strengthen the industry. In a blog post, he proposes three main areas: an EU-wide research strategy, the expansion of manufacturing capacities and guidelines for international cooperation.

Intel has introduced the Loihi-2 computing accelerator for neuromorphic algorithms, i.e. a neural processing unit (NPU). Loihi-2 is designed to replicate around 1 million neurons. Allegedly, Intel is already manufacturing the Loihi-2 with a preliminary version of the “Intel 4” manufacturing technology, which is actually a 7-nanometer technology. But only selected researchers get access to a PCIe card with Loihi-2.

It should only be generally available “in one to two years” and could then also be used as an additional “tile” (Tile) on other ’tiled’ processors appear. Intel 4 thus has several spooky dimensions: the manufacturing technology is called differently than the structural widths would suggest, and it is available at the same time and then again not.

AMD celebrated its fifth Zen birthday in October: the first appeared in 2016 Ryzen. Windows 11 despises it, but Ryzen and Epyc are clear success stories. AMD specified a few announcements: The Ryzens with a stacked giant cache will come in early 2022, followed later next year by version AM5 with DDR5 and PCIe 5.0.

While some Windows 11 prospects are upset about Microsoft’s call for a Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) in the PC, an unexpected TPM advocate has emerged: open source developer Lennart Poettering, who for example behind Systemd and ALSA PulseAudio.He suggests not only integrating the TPM into the Linux boot process in order to improve security, but also thoroughly cleaning it up: In his opinion, some processes when starting Linux can be significantly improved in order to also reduce the attack surface. Similar to Windows BitLocker, the Linux mass storage encryption LUKS could use a TPM as additional protection.

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