In an ominous sign for the future, Intel has officially confirmed the delay of their 10nm process, used for Cannon Lake, till the second half of 2017. In its stead, the 14nm Kaby Lake will take its place for 2016. This confirms the earlier reports that Intel was facing difficulties in 10nm and was adding Kaby Lake to give them more time to work on Cannon Lake. This does seem to place doubts onto earlier information about “Ice Lake“.
CEO Brian Krzanich noted that the firm had already encountered difficulties with their transition to 14nm, which led to the stop gap Haswell Refresh. Kaby Lake will take a similar role as Haswell Refresh but for the Skylake microarchitecture, but will receive some “key performance enhancements” over Skylake. Kzranich also noted that the time frame for Tick Tock was likely to shift to 2.5 years instead of the previous 2 years as die shrinks get harder and harder to implement.
Intel has long kept ahead of the curve with the Tick Tock strategy, but it seems that they can no longer rely just on process technology to keep them ahead of competitors. This is the first official confirm we have for Kaby Lake, but given that the previously leaked slides have shown no real changes for the desktop SKUs compared to Skylake, these “key performance enhancements” may be limited to mobile.
Skylake is looking to be a good buy for those in the market today as it now seems guaranteed that it’s true successor won’t come till 2017. However, Cannon Lake will still be based on Skylake so really, the next major update won’t be till 2018. This should allow AMD to make a splash with their new Zen architecture in 2016 as long as it lives up to its hype. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out over the next few years.
The latest report on Intel’s roadmap shows an interesting turn of events. Intel is supposedly scrapping Cannon Lake, the 10nm chip series meant for 2017, in favour of Ice Lake. This chip will launch after Kaby Lake which itself, is set for 2016 as a replacement for the delayed 10nm architecture previously known as Cannon Lake. More interesting even is the suggestion that Intel will reintroduce FIVR, also known as Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator.
Intel first debuted the FIVR with their Haswell architecture, continuing to use it for the follow-up Broadwell. FIVR allow motherboards to be cheaper and simpler by reducing the number of different voltages that need to be supplied to the CPU package. The FVIR also allows Intel to better control voltages and in some cases, can improve overclocking. Skylake however, set to launch later this year, won’t have FVIR, opting to return to old systems. This change is due to the fact that the Skylake design team is different than the Haswell/Broadwell one.
If Intel does reintroduce the FIVR with Ice Lake, it being the direct successor to Skylake, it points to more changes than what a regular tock or die shrink would get. A return to FIVR would make some sense if we recall Kaby Lake. Kaby Lake is set to be a 14nm refresh of Skylake, meaning Ice Lake might actually be a combined Tick/Tock, meaning the Haswell team might also be working on Ice Lake, which given their past design practices, this makes sense.
At this point, this report hasn’t been confirmed yet so it might not be best to read too much into it. The constantly changing rumours coming out does seem to point to turmoil for Intel’s roadmap ahead. If Intel does slip up, it may be all that is needed for AMD to make a comeback with Zen.
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We brought you news earlier this week that Intel appeared to have delayed their 10nm Cannon Lake chips in favour of 14nm Kaby lake. Now more reports have emerged about the delays and yield issues Intel is facing with the transition to 10nm. Word in the industry is that Intel is further delaying their 10nm ramp up into 2016 meaning it’s very likely there will be no 10nm chips till late 2016 at the earliest.
The biggest issue appears to be 10nm yields are below expectations. With low yields, the new process isn’t able to offer any new value for Intel, meaning it makes financial sense to hold off on the transition. This delay is supported by news that a planned $6 billion upgrade to Fab 28 is also being delayed, pointing to a lack of urgency to hit 10nm from Intel. If 10nm delays pile up, the death of Moore’s law and Intel’s Tick Tock strategy are just around the corner.
Intel faces stiff competition from fellow semiconductor manufacturers TSMC and Samsung, both of whom are pushing their own 10nm process. If either of those firms is able to hit 10nm first, they could have a marketing coup as Intel has long been held to be the leader in process technology. Intel would still liklely have a qualitative edge as their process tends to be more advanced at the same node and not all nanometers are equivalent.
A delay to 10nm would also hurt Intel’s mobile plans. While Intel has good mobile architecutres, the backbone is based on a superior process technology that allows Intel to outperform competitors while being more cost effective and power efficient at the same time. If ARM competitors are able to catch up with their own 10nm chips, Intel will be forced to abandon their strategy of offering expensive subsidies to sell chips. AMD also has a chance to strike back in the desktop and server space if Intel is forced to stand still. While competitors will likely hit the same wall Intel has, parity may be enough for them to catch up.
In a worrying sign for the semi-conductor industry, Intel appears to have delayed their 10nm process indefinitely. According to slides obtained by BenchLife, Intel no longer makes mention of Cannon Lake, the 10nm die shrink of Skylake. Instead, Kaby Lake will launch as its replacement for 2017, still at 14nm along with some refreshed Skylake processors.
Intel has previously faced significant difficulties in their transition to ever lower lithographies. Moving to 14nm was problematic, prompting a delay to Broadwell by nearly a year. While that single misstep didn’t signal the end of the alternating cycle of shrink and architecture change, another delay will be pretty troubling. Intel has previously expressed confidence that they would reach 7nm on silicon, but these delays aren’t inspiring confidence.
In terms of Kaby Lake, it seems largely to be the same as Skylake and in some ways, reminds us of Broadwell. Kaby Lake looks to be focused on being a mobile update. The desktop line continues on LGA 1151 but is still under the Skylake name which again reaffirms the mobile nature of Kaby Lake. Support for USB 3.1 is added for the PCH but AVX512 is not mentioned. The most interesting chip looks to be Kaby Lake-H which has 2x 128MB of eDRAM cache. This should be a big boon for the iGPU and acting as an L4 cache but may hit diminishing returns as results may not scale as well as before.
With Intel facing delays in introducing new processes and architectures, AMD has a golden opportunity to catch up. 2016 is also the year that AMD is introducing their new Zen CPU and APUs, which combined with a largely stagnant Intel, might provide a chance to reclaim market share. AMD may also have a counter for the eDRAM cache for the APU or even the CPU line with the now proven HBM. Next year looks be quite the set up for a rematch between AMD and Intel.