There is a battle for the rank and file in the tech world. This battle wages between giants much like the gods of mythology AMD, Intel and Nvidia all battle for supremacy in compute chips and graphical compute chips. Which one will bring us fire?In this article I am going to describe the fight for technological supremacy in the cpu and gpu market and attempt to draw a comparison to mythology.
What is Intel the God Of?
It might be fair to say that in a sea of giants Intel is Zeus. Even amidst a global pandemic, a recession and stagflation Intel continued to grow its operations under Pat Gelsinger. One theme that helped all these companies during the pandemic is the global chip shortage. Things that used to be easy like purchasing a car or a game console, became much more challenging. Chip manufacturers and their fabricators can’t get the chips out fast enough to saturate the market.
Intel has also entered the discrete graphics card market with the introduction of its arc gpu available in laptops now and rumored to be released for desktops in q4. Though rumored upon release to have some driver issues, their Arc GPUs are still sure to enter into the mid grade competition in the gpu market. And as we know from AMD, when GPUs enter with driver issues and those issues get fixed, it’s as though your GPU ages like fine wine.
“Great companies are able to come back from periods of difficulty and challenge and then come back stronger, better and more capable than ever,And that I believe is the opportunity at Intel, and I’m confident that this company has its best days in front of us, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to be part of that.” Pat Gelsinger said on an earnings report call, prior to taking his position as ceo. And why is this? What is Intel’s competitive advantage? Intel does its own chip fabrication, not only does it not have to rely on a third party, but it intends on manufacturing chips for other companies. With its recent expansions at several campuses Intel is on pace to rank with some of the largest semiconductor manufacturers in the world.
Nvidia: Rumored God of Greed and Envy
Perhaps more formally, the master of the GPU market. Though I believe they are just like every company, it is rumored that Nvidia is named after Invidia the Roman goddess of retribution and envy. This keeps me from guessing what kind of god they are.
Nvidia has most of its chip fab done by the number one semiconductor manufacturer in the world (TSMC) Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Though they also work with Samsung, the second largest. With the help of these two companies Nvidia engineers some of the most advanced chips to ever hit the market. Allowing them to develop state of the art feature sets like Ray Tracing and (DLSS) Deep Learning
Super Sampling. It is these features that keep Nvidia on top when it comes to GPU performance and even though we have seen some engineers scoff at the features, the sizzle still sells.
Breaking new ground, Nvidia enters the CPU market with the Grace CPU Superchip and Grace Hopper Superchip. Granted these are not consumer grade chips, but rather for giant data center servers, still it puts Nvidia on pace with Intel and AMD in the race for chip supremacy. These chips are being designed for a new “type of data center” according to Ian Buck, vice President of Hyperscale and (HPC) High Performance Computing at Nvidia. “AI factories that refine mountains of data to produce intelligence…” Nvidia’s goal is to be at the precipice of the AI market and this is made abundantly clear when you listen to the Computex 2022 Nvidia keynote. https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/events/computex/ They even introduce a new chip (DPU) Data Processing Unit, which they are developing alongside their GPU and CPU intending to have all three communicate through nvlink.
Using the art of digital twinning, Nvidia can program AI robots for a fraction of the price. By simulating the real world they are able to test their robots in virtual reality. Using this technology Nvidia along with its partners are going to revolutionize the workplace and the world.
AMD: The Dualist Athena
Not new to the fab game AMD engineers both CPUs and GPUs as they have been for a long time. At this moment they hold the most competitive server CPUs in the current market. TSMC makes all of AMDs CPUs, GPUs and (SoCs) System on a Chip, or like I like to call them Stand Alone Computers. So They are beholden to the same giant Nvidia is, but this doesn’t seem to make them any less competitive.
After the fall of the Bulldozer, the Ryzen chips seemed to be a night and day difference from the previous generation of AMDs processors. These new generations of CPUs put them back on the world stage when it comes to high end desktop performance. After weathering the storm they came back stronger than ever in the CPU market. Not just for data centers, but for the average consumer as well. Dr. Lisa Su Ceo of AMD said, “Don’t worry about the financials. Just focus on delivering great products.” And boy did they hit the nail on the head with the Ryzen CPUs.
AMD, unlike Nvidia, seems to model their GPUs in more of a brute force methodology instead of building recognizable feature sets. That doesn’t mean the feature sets aren’t there, but the industry, rather fails to adopt them. They seem to fall short when it comes to having a pulse on the average developer or consumer when it comes to this type of marketing. That being said AMD is still an innovator and a competitor, a giant among other giants. Their GPUs still have a place in the market even after Intel comes in to compete.
TSMC, Samsung, UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation) and GlobalFoundries are propping up these proverbial gods as Titans of the industry. Without these Fabrication companies there is no Nvidia or AMD, or maybe a different route would have been taken. After all Intel made the first microprocessor chip in 1971, but it wasn’t until the rise of the (PC) personal computer that Intel made that its primary business.
TSMC manufactures 54% of the world’s semiconductors and over 90% of those in automobiles. Their closest competitor Samsung has only managed to capture 17% of the market, but I imagine they are sure to gather more as their expertise in ARM architecture shines. UMC and GlobalFoundries each hold 7% of the market.
On the tail end of a global chip shortage it is easy to see just how important these titans are in the manufacturing of some of our most useful devices.
Where or Who is Prometheus?
Prometheus was the deity known for stealing fire from the gods and delivering us, mankind, fire, which is a euphemism for technology. The consequence given by Zeus was for Prometheus to be tormented for eternity. He was bound to a rock and an eagle would eat his liver every day and every night it would grow back. In some versions of the myth he was later freed by Hercules. The equivalent to Prometheus is the equivalent of all these companies combined, working to advance technology.
In the end we don’t have deities, but we do have true tech giants that are moving us forward and innovating us toward a brighter future. With high level computing and digital twinning to solve problems in a digital space and then using that data to solve those problems in the real world. This is ultimately going to be used to solve some of the world’s greatest problems including climate change, by creating a digital twin of the earth. We’re all riding along on this beautiful blue rock together and we have to work together, humans and giants alike.
This was an overview of technology’s biggest giants all solving problems in their own way.