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Graphics DRAM Contract Prices Projected to Rise by 8-13% QoQ in 3Q21 Due to Tight Supply in Contract Market, Says TrendForce

TrendForce's latest investigations find considerable discrepancy between prices for graphics DRAM products in the contract market and in the spot market. Quotes for graphics DRAM products continue to rise in the contract market as the severe undersupply situation persists. Furthermore, the supply fulfillment rates for orders from some medium- and small-size clients have been hovering around 30%. This undersupply situation is expected to persist through 3Q21, during which graphics DRAM contract prices are expected to rise by 8-13% QoQ. Regarding the spot market, on the other hand, the value of ETH experienced continued uptrend from the start of 2021 until May, thereby driving up the demand for graphics cards, regardless of them belonging to the newer or older series. At the height of the graphics card boom, spot prices of graphics DRAM products were up to 200% higher than contract prices. Demand from miners for graphics cards are expected to be relatively muted before cryptocurrencies return to their previous bullish trends, and the gap between the spot and contract prices of graphics DRAM products will likely narrow in 3Q21 as a result.

Enterprise SSD Prices Projected to Increase by More Than 10% QoQ in 3Q21 Due to Growing Procurement Capacity, Says TrendForce

Enterprise SSD procurement has been rising on the back of growing server shipments since 2Q21, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. In particular, the share of 8 TB products in shipments of SSDs to data centers has shown the most noticeable growth, which is expected to persist through 3Q21. However, certain SSD components and parts may be in shortage due to insufficient foundry capacity. TrendForce is therefore revising the QoQ hikes in contract prices of enterprise SSDs for 3Q21 to 10-15% from the previous projection of 5-10%.

TrendForce further indicates that the high demand for enterprise SSDs in 3Q21 is attributed to several factors. First, North American cloud service providers (hyperscalers) have pretty much completed their inventory adjustments and now continue to expand their storage capacity. Second, the flow of incoming orders to traditional server brands is getting stronger over the quarters as government agencies and SMBs increase their budgets for IT infrastructure. Third, Intel and AMD are ramping up production for server CPUs based on their respective new processor platforms. Following the adoption of new CPUs, the overall demand for enterprise SSDs has also shifted to higher-density products because clients want to upgrade their computing power and storage capacity. Specifically, demand is mainly trending toward 4/8 TB SSDs since raising NAND Flash density can lower the cost of SSD deployment.

Global NAND Flash Revenue for 1Q21 Rises by 5.1% QoQ Thanks to Better-Than-Expected Demand for Notebooks and Smartphones, Says TrendForce

Total NAND Flash revenue for 1Q21 increased by 5.1% QoQ to US$14.82 billion, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. In particular, bit shipments rose by 11% QoQ, while the overall ASP dropped by 5% QoQ; hence, bit shipment growth offset the decline in the overall ASP. Although NAND Flash demand from notebook computer and smartphone manufacturers remained high, clients from the data center segment exhibited relatively weak demand, since this segment had yet to leave the state of NAND Flash oversupply. Contract prices for this quarter therefore still mostly showed a considerable QoQ drop. On the other hand, OEMs/ODMs of end products began to increase procurement of NAND Flash products from the second half of January onward because they noticed that the shortage of NAND Flash controller ICs was affecting the production of medium- and low-density storage products. Besides avoiding a possible supply crunch in the future, OEMs/ODMs were placing additional orders because they were preparing for a push to expand market share. On account of these developments, the overall NAND Flash demand surpassed expectations in 1Q21.

DRAM Prices Projected to Rise by 18-23% QoQ in 2Q21 Owing to Peak Season Demand, Says TrendForce

TrendForce's investigations find that DRAM suppliers and major PC OEMs are currently participating in the critical period of negotiating with each other over contract prices for 2Q21. Although these negotiations have yet to be finalized, the ASP of mainstream DDR4 1G*8 2666 Mbps modules has already increased by nearly 25% QoQ as of now, according to data on ongoing transactions. This represents a higher price hike than TrendForce's prior forecast of "nearly 20%". On the other hand, prices are likewise rising across various DRAM product categories in 2Q21, including DDR3/4 specialty DRAM, mobile DRAM, graphics DRAM, and in particular server DRAM, which is highly related to PC DRAM and is therefore also undergoing a higher price hike than previously expected. TrendForce is therefore revising up its forecast of overall DRAM price hike for 2Q21 from 13-18% QoQ to 18-23% QoQ instead. However, the actual increase in prices of various DRAM product categories will depend on the production capacities allocated to the respective products by DRAM suppliers.

Hedge Fund Urges Intel to Outsource Chip Production: Reuters

Intel is familiar with chip manufacturing problems since the company started the development of a 10 nm silicon semiconductor node. The latest node is coming years late with many IPs getting held back thanks to the inability of the company to produce it. All of Intel's chip production was historically happening at Intel's facilities, however, given the fact that the demand for 14 nm products is exceeding production capability, the company was forced to turn to external foundries like TSMC to compensate for its lack of capacity. TSMC has a contract with Intel to produce silicon for things like chipsets, which is offloading a lot of capacity for the company. Today, thanks to the exclusive information obtained by Reuters, we have information that a certain New York hedge fund, Third Point LLC, is advising the company about the future of its manufacturing.

The hedge fund is reportedly accounting for about one billion USD worth of assets in Intel, thus making it a huge and one influencing shareholder. The Third Point Chief Executive Daniel Loeb wrote a letter to Intel Chairman Omar Ishrak to take immediate action to boost the company's state as a major provider of processors for PCs and data centers. The company has noted that Intel needs to outsource more of its chip production to satisfy the market needs, so it can stay competitive with the industry. The poor performance of Intel has reflected on the company shares, which have declined about 21% this year. This has awoken the shareholders and now we see that they are demanding more aggressiveness from the company and a plan to outsource more of the chip production to partner foundries like TSMC and Samsung. It remains to be seen how Intel responds and what changes are to take place.

Prices of NAND Flash Controller ICs Poised to Rise by 15-20% due to Tightening Production Capacity for Foundry Services, Says TrendForce

In the upstream semiconductor industry, the major foundries such as TSMC and UMC are reporting fully loaded capacities, while in the downstream, the available production capacity for OSAT is also lacking, according to TrendForce's latest investigations. Given this situation, suppliers of NAND Flash controller ICs such as Phison and Silicon Motion are now unable to meet upside demand from their clients. Not only have many controller IC suppliers temporarily stopped offering quotes for new orders, but they are also even considering raising prices soon because the negotiations between NAND Flash suppliers and module houses over 1Q21 contracts are now at the critical juncture. The potential increases in prices of controller ICs from outsourced suppliers (IC design houses) are currently estimated to be the range of 15-20%.

With regards to the demand side, demand has risen significantly for eMMC solutions with medium- and low-density specifications (i.e., 64 GB and lower), for which NAND Flash suppliers have mostly stopped updating the NAND Flash process technology, while maintaining support with the legacy 2D NAND or the 64L 3D NAND process. This is on account of strong sales for Chromebook devices and TVs. As older processes gradually account for a lowering portion of bit output proportions from NAND Flash suppliers, these companies are exhibiting a lowered willingness to directly supply such eMMC products to clients. As a result, clients now need to turn to memory module houses, which are able to source NAND Flash components and controllers, to procure eMMC products in substantial quantities.

NVIDIA, Samsung Strengthen Strategic Chip Fabrication Partnership in Deal

It seems NVIDIA and Samsung's partnership in bringing to life the green company's semiconductor designs isn't about to end anytime soon. Semiconductor analysts and insiders have said that NVIDIA and Samsung etched a new manufacturing deal on December 17th that still relates to the company's in-high-demand RTX-30 series graphics cards, which should see Samsung increase output - particularly at its Hwaseong plant - to sate the seemingly unquenchable demand from consumers and scalpers alike. The deal, which is roughly valued at "hundreds of billions won" will see Samsung double down on its 8 nm output for NVIDIA's latest gaming chips. This seems to put to rest speculation on an RTX 30-series redesign for TSMC's allegedly better 7 nm process - and according to the industry insiders, NVIDIA looked to Samsung specifically because of the need for "quick delivery of the chips".

This instills new life into Samsung's contract-based foundry business; according to market researcher TrendForce, Samsung's foundry business is expected to post a record $14.05 billion in sales this year, up 17.9% from 2019, as the company expands its client base not only through this and the previous NVIDIA deal, to Qualcomm Technologies Inc., Google, IBM, Cisco and China's Baidu. Samsung is accelerating its investment into EUV lithography in sub-7 nm processes so as to poach more customers and market share from industry behemoth and poster boy TSMC, spending 10 trillion won ($8.6 billion) to both improve technology and increase output on its foundries.

Raja Koduri to Present at Samsung Foundry Forum amid Intel's Outsourcing Efforts

Intel's chief architect and senior vice president of discrete graphics division, Mr. Raja Koduri, is said to be scheduled to present at Samsung Electronics Event day. With a presentation titled "1000X More Compute for AI by 2025", the event is called Samsung Foundry SAFE Forum. It is a global virtual conference designed to be available to everyone. So you might be wondering what is Mr. Koduri doing there. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know about Intel's struggles with node manufacturing. Specifically, the 10 nm node delays that show the company's efforts to deliver a node on time. The same is happening with the 7 nm node that also experienced significant delays.

Intel has a contract to develop an exascale supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory, called Aurora. That supercomputer is using Intel's CPUs and the company's upcoming Xe GPUs. Since the company has problems with manufacturing and has to deliver the products (it is bound by several contracts) to its contractors and customers, it decided to look at external manufacturers for its products, specifically Xe graphics. Being that Mr. Koduri tweeted an image of him visiting Samsung Giheung Fab in Korea, and now presenting at the Samsung Foundry event, it is possible that Intel will tap Samsung's semiconductor manufacturing process for its Xe GPU efforts and that Samsung will be the contractor in charge.

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang Says NVIDIA-Branded CPUs Could be Coming

It was just yesterday that we have received the news of NVIDIA's latest move - acquiring Arm Ltd. from Softbank Group for $40 billion. However, it seems like there are more reasons for the deal than what meets the eye. In the briefing regarding the acquisition, NVIDIA's CEO was asked a question, by Timothy Prickett Morgan, from TheNextPlatform, about NVIDIA's plans for a possible implementation of Arm's Neoverse core in an NVIDIA-branded CPU design and start selling them to data centers. To that question, Mr. Huang gave a prolonged answer indirectly saying that the company can build the CPU if there is a market for it.

He explains that there is an entire network surrounding the Arm ecosystem and that there may be customers interested in contracting NVIDIA to build them semi-custom or completely custom chip based on Arm ISA on NVIDIA's own interest. Any of these options are available and Mr. Haung says that they are there for the best interest of the ecosystem to enrich it enhance it even further. This means that it is just a matter of time before we see NVIDIA-branded CPU make its way to data-center or some other areas of technology, so we have to wait and see for ourselves.

TSMC Doesn't See Intel as Long-Term Customer, Unlikely to Build Additional Capacity for It

TSMC has been the backbone of silicon designers for a long time. Whenever you question where you can use the latest technology and get some good supply capacity, TSMC got everyone covered. That case seems to be similar to Intel and its struggles. When Intel announced that its 7 nm semiconductor node is going to be delayed a full year, the company's customers and contractors surely became worried about the future releases of products and their delivery, like the case is with Aurora exascale supercomputer made for Argonne National Laboratory, which relies on Intel's 7 nm Ponte Vecchio graphics cards for most of the computation power.

To manage to deliver this, Intel is reportedly in talks with TSMC to prepare capacity for the GPUs and deliver them on time. However, according to industry sources of DigiTimes, TSMC is unlikely to build additional capacity for Intel, besides what it can deliver now. According to those sources, TSMC does not see Intel as a long-term customer and it is unknown what treatment will Intel get from TSMC. Surely, Intel will be able to make a deal with TSMC and secure enough of the present capacity for delivering next-generation processors.

Intel and Micron Sign New Agreement for 3D XPoint Shipment

Intel and Micron have signed a new agreement for the production of 3D XPoint memory. As currently the only source of 3D XPoint memory solutions, Micron will get a significant increase in cash flow coming from Intel for the memory production. While Intel and Micron ended their partnership on 3D XPoint memory, they have signed a new contract for the production and supply of new 3D XPoint wafers to Intel. This shows that the demand for 3D XPoint memory is strong, so Intel needs production capacity to deliver the memory, and Micron is the obvious choice.

Previously, Intel sold its ownership of Lehi fab based in Utah, which was manufacturing the 3D XPoint memory solutions, so it was left to Micron to use. However, they signed a new deal and now Micron is in charge of manufacturing and addressing the supply issues for Intel's future Optane products. The new agreement comes with changed pricing and forecast of the sales, so Intel is likely paying more cash to Micron this time.
Intel 3D XPoint

ARM Revokes Huawei's Chip IP Licence

As the trade war between the US and China continues to unfold, we are seeing major US companies ban or stop providing service to China's technology giant Huawei. Now, it looks like the trade war has crossed the ocean and reached the UK. This time, UK based ARM Holdings, the provider of mobile chip IP for nearly all smartphones and tablets, has revoked the license it has given Huawei.

According to the BBC, ARM Holdings employees were instructed to suspend all interactions with Huawei, and to send a note informing Huawei that "due to an unfortunate situation, they were not allowed to provide support, deliver technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters with Huawei, HiSilicon or any of the other named entities." The news came from an internal ARM document the BBC has obtained.

Without Silicon, Intel Scores First Exascale Computer Design Win for Xe Graphics - AURORA Supercomputer

This here is an interesting piece of tech news for sure, in that Intel has already scored a pretty massive design win for not one, but two upcoming products. Intel's "Future Xeon Scalable Processors" and the company's "Xe Compute Architecture" have been tapped by the U.S. Department of Energy for incorporation into the new AURORA Supercomputer - one that will deliver exascale performance. AURORA is to be developed in a partnership between Intel and Cray, using the later's Shasta systems and its "Slingshot" networking fabric. But these are not the only Intel elements in the supercomputer design: Intel's DC Optane persistent memory will also be employed (in an as-of-yet-unavailable version of it as well), making this a full win across the prow for Intel.

Palit and PC Partner Beat ASUS in Graphics Card Market Share

According to the latest global graphics card market share seen by Taiwanese tech industry observer DigiTimes, Palit Microsystems and PC Partner have each surpassed ASUSTek. The two relegated ASUS to the position of third biggest graphics card vendor by volume. ASUS is a vendor-neutral graphics card vendor, selling both NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards; while Palit beat it with a predominantly GeForce-based product stack. Although Palit Microsystems is vendor-neutral on paper, it virtually stopped making AMD Radeon-based products.

Palit Microsystems runs two major brands, Palit, and Gainward, which target different global markets, and are seldom found in the same market. PC Partner, on the other hand, runs Sapphire, which focuses on AMD Radeon products, and ZOTAC, focusing on NVIDIA GeForce. Both Palit Microsystems and PC Partners also contract-manufacture graphics cards for other companies. With the surge of Palit Microsystems and PC Partner, ASUSTek is pushed down to the third place in global market-share, followed by MSI and GIGABYTE.

NVIDIA Receives DARPA Contract Worth up to $20M for Embedded Processor Research

NVIDIA has been awarded a contract worth up to $20 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to research embedded processor technologies that could lead to dramatic improvements in the ability of autonomous vehicles to collect and process data from on-board sensors.

DARPA is the U.S. Defense Department's research and development arm. The five-year contract, awarded under DARPA's Power Efficiency Revolution For Embedded Computing Technologies (PERFECT) program, will fund research for processors that are 75-times more energy efficient than current embedded solutions. The goal is to enable surveillance and computer vision systems in ground and airborne vehicles to collect and analyze vastly more data than can be processed today in real time.

Human Head hasn't Worked on Prey 2 in Months, RUNE Sequel Possible

News that Prey 2 had not been cancelled, but rather delayed, was relieving to fans of the original. However, why has there been such secrecy surrounding the project over the last several months? According to a Shacknews source who asked not to be identified, Human Head was not happy with the terms of its contract with ZeniMax, and deliberately stopped work on the game in November so it could try to negotiate a more favorable deal. While doing that, many on the development team were laid off, with the hope they would be rehired if the contract issue was resolved favorably. The process seemed to be gathering some positive momentum until January when ZeniMax's responses all but stopped, causing some of the laid-off Prey 2 team to wonder if the game would ever see the light of day.

By March 1, the source said, things had progressed a bit, leaving the Prey 2 team hopeful that they would return to work soon. But that quickly soured the following day. The source could provide no further first-hand details after March 2. When contacted for a response, an official at ZeniMax responded that "we aren't commenting on the game's development beyond what was said in the statement that was released this morning." In light of the new information, the official stance that "the delay is due to the fact that game development has not progressed satisfactorily this past year, and the game does not currently meet our quality standards" seems to throw Human Head under the creative bus. With development stalled for months, it's no surprise that the game would be unable to meet so-called "quality standards."

Dell Expands Award-Winning ProSupport to Cover More Brands and Countries

To help customers address the inefficiencies and lost costs of managing multiple support vendors, Dell ProSupport for Multivendor has been globally expanded beyond x86 to include support for storage, networking and UNIX products. This expansion also includes support for additional vendors for servers, desktops and laptops. By consolidating support under one service provider, customers can ensure consistent processes and reduce the resources required to manage complex services contracts from multiple vendors, ultimately simplifying IT management and reducing their IT costs.

"Our customers rely on the expertise, global network and 24x7 availability of Dell ProSupport for their Dell systems and can now experience those same benefits across their entire environment," said Doug Schmitt, vice president, Dell Services. "With the latest expansion of Dell ProSupport for Multivendor, customers around the world can rely on Dell for all of their support needs. From end-user systems to complex data centers and everything in between, customers will save time and money and receive the same award-winning support they've come to expect from Dell ProSupport."

AMD Flogging Dodgy Chips? Gets Slapped With Lawsuit

AMD has been slapped with a lawsuit by Quanta for allegedly selling faulty CPUs & GPUs that were unfit for purpose, since they didn't meet specified heat tolerances and subsequently failed. Taiwan-based Quanta may not have a name that the general public immediately recognizes, however they are actually the world's largest contract manufacturer of notebooks, so this lawsuit is a big deal. They claim that the faulty parts were used in notebooks made for NEC. The lawsuit was filed in a district court in San Jose, California and in the filing, Quanta claims they have "suffered significant injury to prospective revenue and profits". As Bloomberg reports, "the lawsuit also claims breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, civil fraud and interference with a contract."

HDD Vendors Want Long-Term Contracts with PC Makers

Well, it seems that the flooding in Thailand has done a lot more than destroy lives, wreck a few factories and cause HDD prices to shoot up. There appears to be a lot of opportunities for changing the terms of business too - to less favourable ones for customers of hard disc drives. First, we had the severe and unwelcome warranty reductions and now we have HDD manufacturers trying to lock branded PC makers into expensive long-term contracts, according to Digitimes. Some PC makers buy hard disk drives on a quarterly basis, at a fixed price, but now that prices have shot up and supplies restricted, HDD manufacturers are trying to coerce them into signing one year contracts at current high prices. However, it looks like it might not be such a good deal for PC makers, because the recovery in supply is continuing, with a full recovery potentially not so far away, which will of course make those prices plummet again. As it is, HDD shipments are projected to be around 140 million units in the first quarter of 2012, while the same quarter last year was 170-180 million units - so the fall isn't really that hugely less than before anyway and should become less severe as 2012 wears on.

One does get the impression that the HDD manufacturers are playing up the difficulty of restoring production volumes in order to give them a better bargaining hand. There's also the fact that recovering from the disaster is hugely expensive for them, so HDD makers will want to charge more to recoup those costs faster, motivating them to use tactics like these.

U.S. Army Attacks the CryEngine

The U.S. Army might be financing one of the most epic videos games ever made that very few people may ever play. The "game" is called Dismounted Soldier Training System and was commissioned by the U.S. government back in May for a staggering cost of 57 million dollars. The contract was awarded to RealTime Immersive Inc. All of this according to PC Gamer. Everything about this simulator is said to be cutting edge but the hardware it runs on. In a GamePro interview with the director of strategic programs at Intelligent Decisions, Floyd West is said to have stated, "With CryEngine 3 being used for Crysis 2 and the capabilities that game engine provides, it allows us to make the most realistic simulation possible. We're able to transport soldiers to accurately recreated locales like Afghanistan and Iraq, where we can simulate everything from visuals to 360-degree sound."

The virtual reality headsets the trainees wear will run from a backpack unit similar to a top of the range gaming laptop, called the 'Man Wearable Unit'. "While the man wearable units aren't running on an off-the-shelf Alienware, the internal components themselves are commercial off-the-shelf CPUs and GPUs like NVIDIA graphic cards and whatnot."

As this is an internal military training simulator we the public may never play it. However that doesn't mean we cannot watch the trailers in awe and wonder if our own rigs could render thousands of kilometers in such massive detail.

Trailer 1 | Trailer 2

Sony's Anti-Class Action ToS Attracts Class Action Lawsuit!

In perhaps one of the more ironic legal moves to be seen recently, Sony's clause in its Terms of Service preventing PlayStation 3 owners from filing class action lawsuits has itself attracted a class action lawsuit! The lawsuit was filed in Northern California in November, by a man on behalf of PS3 owners who signed up for the PlayStation Network before September, when the ToS were updated and this anti-class action clause added.

The killer clause is buried deep into the contract and is very hard to spot, requiring the contract to be read all the way through with a fine toothcomb - if the reader can rise to the challenge of reading the complicated and dry legalese it's written in. Compounding the problem is that the agreement isn't even readily available online for anyone to study - it can only be viewed on the PS3 itself (so the console is already used before you can even see the agreement - hardly fair?) and appears near the bottom of the 21-page form. Previous agreements had been posted online for anyone to inspect. On top of that, the only way of opting out of it, is to mail a physical letter to Sony within 30 days of agreeing to the ToS - very inconvenient and likely to be forgotten by the average person. The main thrust of the lawsuit are allegations of unfair business practices, since PS3 owners are forced to choose between forfeiting their rights or access to the PSN. Note that since Sony introduced this clause, Electronic Arts and Microsoft have both introduced similar clauses, which doesn't put them in a very good light either and potentially at the receiving end of a lawsuit themselves.
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