As part of today’s announcements, during Intel’s Q&A session after the prepared remarks, CEO Pat Gelsinger discussed how Intel is going to revive its fortunes when it comes to its advanced computing products. One of Gelsinger’s mantras seems to be that undisputed leadership products bring undisputed leadership margins for those products, and for Intel to perform, it has to go back to its old days.
In the past, in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, Intel’s manufacturing philosophy was known as “Tick-Tock”. This means that for each product generation, the cutting edge compute hardware was either a Tick (process node improvement) or a Tock (microarchitecture improvement). Each generation would alternate between the two, allowing Intel to take advantage of a familiar design on a new process node, or use a mature node to enable a new performance-driven design. This policy was flawed when Intel’s 10nm delays forced Intel to turn more to a Tick-Tock optimize-optimize-optimize model.
Today CEO Pat Gelsinger said that at the heart of Intel he needs to reestablish the Tick-Tock model that has enabled repeated leadership in the processor ecosystem, supported by a healthy processor roadmap. . Part of this is restoring discipline within the ranks of Intel to continuously deliver microarchitecture updates and process node updates at a regular scheduled rate. Pat said as part of the call that Intel will be looking at a confirmed annual improvement in process nodes and as a result there could be a lot of ticks going forward, with a push towards more Tocks as well.
In addition to this commentary, Pat Gelsinger also said that Intel’s processor roadmaps are already on track through 2021, 2022 and 2023. The company therefore looks to 2024/2025 for “unchallenged leadership performance in CPU ‘, which traditionally stands for the fastest single-threaded and multi-threaded processor. It’s a laudable goal for sure, but Intel will also have to adapt to a changing landscape of chip processor designs (coming in 2023), improving on-die accelerators (GNA already present), and also what that means. have leadership performance – in the modern age, leadership performance doesn’t mean much if you push lots of watts as well. Intel has said its 7nm process is now on track to deliver Meteor Lake, a client processor using tiles / chipsets, in 2023, but we’re probably looking for a 7nm variant or even external processes for a 2024/2025 product. . Intel has also said it is looking to consider its core computing edge over external foundry processes, although it could be argued that this does not explicitly say “CPU.”
It should also be noted that Intel / Gelsinger does not refer to its disintegrated silicon as “chips” and prefers to use the term “tiles”. This is because Intel’s tiles represent long wires through 3D packaging technologies such as EMIB and Foveros, compared to package-based multi-pu interconnect which requires buffers as well as a control structure. . Tiles by this definition are more expensive to implement than chips, and have additional thermal considerations by having high power silicon close together, so it will be interesting to see how Intel balances these new packaging technologies. with the most cost-sensitive elements of its portfolio. , such as client processors.
It is known that Intel’s microarchitecture teams have not been idle while waiting for 10nm to pass through the pipe, with a number of designs ready and waiting for process node technology to mature. Hopefully, if Intel can get a headwind with 7nm, when 2024 rolls around, it could all get thick and fast.