Intel ups ante with AMD with 10nm Xeon data centre chips

Intel ups ante with AMD with 10nm Xeon data centre chips

Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, said it’s offering a revamped version of its Xeon range in time for what it sees as the “biggest build-out of technology infrastructure in human history”.

The company has struggled with updating its manufacturing – a key part of improving the ability of processors – and is finally bringing a 10-nanometre manufacturing process to server chips. The new versions perform, on average, 46% better than their predecessors, Intel said Tuesday.

Intel is trying to respond to a renewed challenge from AMD, a company it had banished to less than 1% share in the lucrative server processor market. Intel plans to be “super aggressive” in competing, according to Navin Shenoy, who heads the Santa Clara, California-based company’s data centre business.

Intel chips using the 10nm process were initially scheduled to debut in 2017. Difficulties in making that technology work economically caused multiple pushbacks. That hold-up allowed AMD to field processors, made by contract manufacturer TSMC, that it touts as more advanced than Intel’s products.

The manufacturing delays were among the issues that plagued the once-dominant chip maker, sending its stock down almost 17% last year and leading to the appointment in February of Pat Gelsinger as CEO. Gelsinger, a former longtime Intel executive who left in 2009, last month announced a new strategy to revive the company’s technological prowess.

‘Biggest build-out’

Shenoy said that regardless of the competitive dynamics, Intel’s new flagship is being rolled out at a time of unprecedented demand for computer and networking infrastructure. The pandemic helped accelerate what the technology industry is calling the digitisation of the economy.

“We believe we’re headed for the biggest build-out of technology infrastructure in human history,” he said in an interview. “We’re seeing that in real time.”

Shenoy said the changes in the economy are profound, and not just confined to the effects of the pandemic. For example, online conference calls have replaced air travel, hotel use and the need for rental cars, he said. The use of computing over the Internet in the cloud and the building of 5G cellular networks will change multiple industries and spur demand.

The new Intel chips will have as many as 40 computing cores built into one piece of silicon. They’ll also be able to access much more memory, a bottleneck for server performance, the company said.

Shenoy said Intel’s unique strength is its ability to offer a range of chips – memory and artificial intelligence software accelerators – that customers need as much as bumps in processor speed.

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