Intel’s Fab 42 Resurrected, 8th Gen CPUs Lightly Detailed

By Published February 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm
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Between its visit to the White House and Intel’s annual Investor Day, we’ve collected a fair bit of news regarding Intel’s future.

Beginning with the former, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich elected to use the White House Oval Office as the backdrop for announcing Intel’s plans to bring Fab 42 online, with the intention of preparing the Fab for 7nm production. Based in Chandler, Arizona, Fab 42 was originally built between 2011 and 2013, but Intel shelved plans to finalize the fab in 2014. The rebirth of the Arizona-based factory will expectably facilitate up to 10,000 jobs and completion is projected in 3-4 years. Additionally, Intel is prepared to invest as much as $7 billion to up-fit the fab for their 7nm manufacturing process, although little is known about said process.

Moving onto Intel’s annual Investor Day, the company announced an 8th generation core remaining on the 14nm fabrication node: Coffee Lake. As such, this will be the fourth consecutive year—and fourth consecutive chip—to be built on 14nm silicon. Confusingly, it is believed that the 8th generation lineup will consist of both 14nm Coffee Lake cores and 10nm Cannon Lake cores, as Intel has claimed to have smoothed their 10nm process and will deliver the cores before year end. Supposedly, the 10nm shrink will be aimed at the Y and U series of chips first (data center, ultra-low-power), while the strung-out 14nm variant will serve the U-series to S-series parts.

Dragging out 14nm is likely interpretive as a few things: namely, pressure from AMD and their upcoming Ryzen processor family, and the need to satiate the market segments while mastering the peculiarities of 10nm. Intel’s chip business has been shaky lately, with the troubled transition to 10nm (which isn’t limited to Intel), and the paring down of their workforce as part of a restructuring effort to shift focus from a waning PC market towards datacenters and the Internet of Things business; i.e., connected devices.

Delivering 10nm yields to data centers first will likely resonate unwell with enthusiasts, but it does make fiscal sense for Intel as it has become a massive market that moves more revenue than enthusiast. Worth mentioning is that not all semiconductor suppliers are sold on the prospects of 10nm, with AMD and GlobalFoundries electing to skip it in favor of 7nm.

As we move further into 2017, we’ll hopefully learn more about Intel’s plans and be able to update analysis appropriately.

- Eric Hamilton

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