Week In Review: Design, Low Power

DOD adds supercomputers; MediaTek to buy IC Plus; fabless soars this decade.


The United States Army Research Laboratory is acquiring two new supercomputers, nicknamed Jean and Jay after computing pioneers Jean Jennings Bartik and Kathleen “Kay” McNulty Mauchly, according to an article in NextGov. The two systems are Liqid Computing platforms containing 48 core Intel XEON (Cascade Lake Advanced Performance) processors integrated with the largest solid state file systems the DOD has deployed to date, according to a DOD press release.

A hedge fund is pushing Intel to break itself up. According to Reuters, Third Point LLC, which recently took a nearly $1 billion stake in the company, believes the semiconductor giant should split its chip design efforts from its fabrication operations, potentially creating a joint venture. Third Point CEO Daniel Loeb is particularly concerned about manufacturing drifting to TSMC and Samsung, writing, “We fear that America’s access to leading-edge semiconductor supply will erode, forcing the U.S. to rely more heavily on a geopolitically unstable East Asia to power everything from PCs to data centers to critical infrastructure and more.” The fund also pointed to stiff competition in the PC and data center space from AMD and Nvidia as well as moves by customers like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon to design their own silicon and urged Intel to cut low-performing “failed” acquisitions. In a brief statement, Intel responded that it “welcomes input from all investors regarding enhanced shareholder value.”

MediaTek subsidiary Airoha Technology will acquire IC Plus, a supplier of chips for Ethernet transceivers and switches, Taipei Times reported. The deal, worth NT$1.51 billion (US$52.94 million), is expected to close in April 2021. In a filing, MediaTek said the acquisition “will help the company develop broadband communications chips and related products, and enhance the company’s competitiveness.”

Fabless/system IC company sales are expected to more than double from $63.5 billion in 2010 to $130.0 billion in 2020, according to market research firm IC Insights. It expects total IDM IC sales to be up only 30% over the same time period, from $204.3 billion in 2010 to $265.7 billion in 2020. Fabless companies increased market share as a percent of IC sales to 32.9%, partially due to a weaker memory market. IC Insights expects the proportion to remain roughly the same for the next five years.

Find a new conference or learning opportunity at our events page, or check out an upcoming webinar.

Coming up in the new year, CES will be held as a virtual event Jan. 11-14. The Asia and South Pacific Design Automation Conference 2021 will take place Jan. 18-21. Synopsys’ Virtual Prototyping Day will be held Jan. 20.

In February, the 2021 International Solid-State Circuits Virtual Conference will be held Feb. 13-22. The International Symposium on Field-Programmable Gate Arrays will take place Feb. 28-Mar. 2.

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