Memories are made of chips: 'Surge in online activity' helps Micron make off with $5.4bn in Q3

Yep, that's WD and Xilinx smirking in the background


Analysts today noted that memory maker Micron's latest results suggested "healthy" data centre demand, as the American firm's CEO pointed to uptick in capacity requirements as the "pandemic driv[es] rapid change in consumer and corporate practices..."

The American firm put in an impressive third quarter for fiscal 2020, increasing its revenues 14 per cent over the 2019 figure as the data centre market led the way.

Micron makes DRAM, flash chips and SSDs and its own 3D XPoint memory after decoupling from Intel. Its main markets are mobile telephony, data centres, PCs, graphics processing and the automotive industry.

Pandemic supply chain pain

While the $5.4bn figure for Q3 fiscal 2020, up from $4.8bn for the same time last year, is eye-catching, the company's revenues remain down for the year to date. For the fiscal year so far, the company has pulled in revenues of $15.4bn compared to $18.5bn in the previous year. The gross margin has also remained more or less static between Q3 FY2020 and Q3 FY2019, standing at around $1.8bn.

The company had noted demand headwinds in its last filing as its customers' factories in China were shut down during the lockdown. Revenue in Q2 FY2020 turned out to be 18 per cent down on the previous year.

However, Q3 FY2020 revenue handily beat the company's own forecasts, which were in the range of $4.6bn to $5.2bn. The growth, according to CFO Dave Zinsner, was led by mobile and data centre markets. DRAM alone accounted for 66 per cent, or $3.6bn, of revenues while NAND accounted for $1.7bn.

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While DRAM revenue was up 6 per cent year on year, NAND jumped 50 per cent.

In the earnings call, CEO Sanjay Mehrotra noted the negative impact on market segments driven by consumer demand in the past, while also highlighting the surge in online activity, which had driven additional data centre capacity requirements.

He noted: "Calendar 2020 analyst estimates for end-unit sales of autos, smartphones and PCs are meaningfully lower than pre-COVID-19 levels, even though estimates for enterprise laptops and Chromebooks have increased."

Going forward, Micron expected the arrival of 5G (particularly in sub-$250 handsets) to drive a recovery in the growth of smartphone sales and noted that the new devices tended to enjoy more DRAM and NAND than the previous generation. It was also optimistic about demand for next-generation gaming consoles in the second half of calendar 2020 but expected overall PC unit shipments to decline (thanks mainly to drooping demand for desktops).

While the company highlighted the impact of restrictions imposed on Huawei - the Chinese firm was formerly a major purchaser of its memory chips and storage kit - it remained bullish about continued data centre growth fuelling demand for its chippery and issued guidance to the effect that revenue for the next quarter should be nearer the $6bn mark (plus or minus $250m).

Fellow memory maker Western Digital, which is expected to report earnings on July 30, saw a 7 per cent rise in its share price today on the back of Micron's results.

FPGA-flinger Xilinx also recently pushed up its fiscal Q1 revenue forecast to $720-$734m from $660m-$720m, saying "stronger than expected revenues in our Wired and Wireless Group and Data Center Group more than [offset] weaker than expected revenues in our consumer-oriented end markets, including automotive, broadcast, and consumer." ®


Vodafone chief gushes over OpenRAN, says commercial deployments to start this year

But still some way to go before standards-based tech can match mainstream products

Last year Vodafone bet big on OpenRAN, announcing it would shift a huge portion of its tower estate to the standards-based tech. Now Andrew Dona, the telco's director of network and development, has shed some light on how this will work.

Speaking to Telecom TV, Dona said Vodafone had already deployed two OpenRAN sites to its production network, situated in the southwest of England. These deployments are part of its testing process, which Dona said would conclude in May.

The wide-scale macro rollout, which will replace roughly 2,600 4G masts with OpenRAN alternatives, is expected to commence later this year, winding up in 2027 in time to meet the UK government's edict to excise high-risk vendors from the telecommunications networks.

In 2019, Vodafone's then-CTO, Scott Petty, said 32 per cent of its 4G base stations used Huawei-made kit. The following year, he said Vodafone's Huawei-based 5G NSA (non-standalone) RAN equipment was "inextricably linked" to its legacy networks, which include 5G. Removing Huawei's equipment from the RAN and legacy core networks is expected to cost approximately €200 million (roughly £170 million) over a five-year period.

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Swedish startup Logical Clocks takes a crack at scaling MySQL backend for live recommendations

Takes a 'different approach' to YouTube's Vitess to munch complex transactions in microseconds

Swedish startup Logical Clocks is launching a new key-value database as a managed service, based on the MySQL derivative MySQL NDB Cluster.

The vendor told us its RonDB can be used to provide live data to machine learning models for real-time decision-making – as commonly used in online recommendations and fraud detection.

Although it has a history going back to the late 1990s, the new open-source distribution is currently in closed beta, with interested users encouraged to apply to participate. General availability is expected in the second quarter.

Logical Clocks said the database can respond in 100-200 microseconds on individual requests, in less than a millisecond on batched read requests and perform complex transactions in a highly loaded cluster within 10 milliseconds. It can perform hundreds of millions of read or write operations per second, the company added, and apparently offers 99.9999 per cent availability – no more than 30 seconds of downtime per year.

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Microsoft quantum lab retracts published paper: Readings that cast doubt on crucial discovery went AWOL

Quasiparticle eggheads were 'caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment'

A paper published in Nature two years ago and spearheaded by a Microsoft scientist has been retracted after it emerged that the data presented simply didn't add up.

The work was produced at a quantum computer lab set up by Microsoft and QuTech, a research center co-founded by the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The study, led by Microsoftie and TU Delft Professor Leo Kouwenhoven, reported the discovery of a theoretical quasiparticle the academics believed would prove useful for future quantum computers.

"A 2018 academic paper published in Nature and led by one of our scientific directors, primarily in his capacity as a Professor at TU Delft, was retracted,” Zulfi Alam, a Microsoft Quantum unit veep, told The Register on Monday.

“As part of proposing the retraction, the authors of the paper took feedback from the scientific community, re-analyzed the data, wrote a new paper based on the analysis, and embraced the paper’s examination by independent experts in the field. This is an excellent example of the scientific process at work.

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Deploy AI workloads with confidence using OpenVINO

Write once, deploy anywhere

Sponsored Artificial Intelligence techniques have been finding their way into business applications for some time now. From chatbots forming the first line of engagement in customer services, to image recognition systems that can identify defects in products before they reach the end of the production line in a factory.

But many organisations are still stuck at where to start in building machine-learning and deep-learning models and taking them all the way from development through to deployment. Another complication is how to deploy a model onto a different system than the one that was used to train it. Especially for situations such as edge deployments, where less compute power is available than in a datacentre.

One solution to these problems is to employ OpenVINO™ (Open Visual Inference & Neural Network Optimization), a toolkit developed by Intel to speed the development of applications involving high-performance computer vision and deep-learning inferencing, among other use cases. OpenVINO takes a trained model, and optimises it to operate on a variety of Intel hardware, including CPUs, GPUs, Intel® Movidius™ Vision Processing Unit (VPU), FPGAs, or the Intel® Gaussian & Neural Accelerator (Intel® GNA).

This means that it acts like an abstraction layer between the application code and the hardware. It can also fine tune the model for the platform the customer wants to use, claims Zoë Cayetano, Product Manager for Artificial Intelligence & Deep Learning at Intel. “That's really useful when you're taking an AI application into production. There's a variety of different niche challenges in inferencing that we've tackled with OpenVINO, that are different from when models and applications are in the training phase,” she says.

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China outlines plan to boost economy with AI, a cloud OS it controls – and bringing in skilled foreigners

Other fun bits: An 'asteroid patrol', brain:computer fusion, DNA storage, enhanced privacy laws

China has put quantum communications networks and a brain:machine interface on its to-do list in plans unveiled at its annual "Two Sessions" parliamentary sittings.

The centerpiece of the Two Sessions, which sees 5,000 of the nation's political elite gather for meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and top political advisory body the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is discussion of a new five-year plan for the nation's development.

The 14th Five-Year Plan, a document outlining objectives from 2021 until 2025, is not allowed to be released before finalization. However a 142-page long draft in Mandarin was made legally public and select parts have been translated by Chinese journalist, Zichen Wang of state-controlled Xinhua News.

According to his translations, the five-year plan has two sections that pertain to technology.

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Mobile World Congress seemingly serious about in-person Barcelona event in June, shares safety plan

Is Spain really ready for 50,000 people at one venue? Sounds like a super spreader event ready to happen

Mobile World Congress appears determined to run its annual Barcelona super-conference as an in-person event this year, mid-pandemic, posting a safety plan online on Monday.

The tech-fest is due to take place at the end of June, having been pushed back from its usual late February slot, giving it less than four months until doors open: a risky timeline given that the vaccination rate for Spain and the Catalan region currently stands at just under nine per cent.

But the organizers reckon that the global COVID-19 pandemic can be defeated within the walls of its conference venue with a few simple steps: social distancing, personal hygiene, event hygiene, and training staff.

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GitHub bug briefly gave valid authenticated session cookies to wrong users

Don’t panic: Fewer than 0.001% of sessions compromised through flaw that couldn’t be maliciously triggered

If you visit GitHub today you’ll be asked to authenticate anew because the code collaboration locker has squished a bug that sometimes “misrouted a user’s session to the browser of another authenticated user, giving them the valid and authenticated session cookie for another user.”

GitHub disclosed the problem today, explain that it could only happen under “extremely rare circumstances” and “occurred in fewer than 0.001% of authenticated sessions on GitHub.com.”

The service knows which users’ sessions were exposed by the flaw and says it has contacted them with guidance and additional information.

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Azure flings out free virtual trusted platform module for cloudy VMs

Take that, rootkits and other low-level nasties - if they take a crack at fresh VMs, on certain instance types under a handful of OSes

Microsoft has revealed that its Azure IaaS platform now offers free a virtual trusted platform module.

Dubbed “Azure Trusted Launch for virtual machines” and launched as a preview on March 8th, Microsoft’s CTO for Azure Mark Russinovich said the new offering “allows administrators to deploy virtual machines with verified and signed bootloaders, OS kernels, and a boot policy that leverages the Trusted Launch Virtual Trusted Platform Module (vTPM) to measure and attest to whether the boot was compromised.”

All of which is pretty familiar stuff on-prem, as TPM has been around for over a decade and is just-about standard issue on modern servers. Google brought virtual TPM to its cloud in mid-2018 and made it the default server configuration in April 2020.

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Cisco issues blizzard of end-of-life notices for Nexus 3K and 7K switches

Service options decline starting next year... so there may be a Nexus 9K switch in your future

Cisco has in recent days issued a blizzard of end-of-life and end-of-sale announcement for switches in its Nexus 3000 and Nexus 7000 ranges.

By The Register’s count, the networking giant has announced that the 18 devices, listed below, across the ranges will soon be sent to the knacker's yard.

The initial batch of notices advised users that the listed devices would not be sold after late August 2021, with shipments to end in November of the same year and support services dwindling as of August 2022. November 2025 was set as the last date on which a service contract could be renewed.

However, Chipzilla has since updated a handful of the notices and extended some of the deadlines mentioned above by as much as 18 months. You can find the 3K notices here and the 7K notices here. The last day of hardware support will be sometime in 2026 or 2027, depending on the model.

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Apple emits patches for iOS, macOS, Safari, etc to stop dodgy websites hijacking people's gadgets

Plus: Chrome also patched, Microsoft and Intel team up for homomorphic encryption, and more

In brief Apple on Monday released security patches for macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and Safari to fix up a vulnerability that can be exploited by malicious web pages to run malware on victims' computers and gadgets.

Thus surfing to a dodgy page could be enough to hand over control of your iThing or Mac to miscreants. Apple thanks Clément Lecigne of Google’s Threat Analysis Group and Alison Huffman of Microsoft Browser Vulnerability Research for reporting the arbitrary code execution security flaw, CVE-2021-1844, which is present in WebKit, the browser engine used by various bits of Cupertino code.

As such, users should upgrade to Safari 14.0.3, macOS Big Sur 11.2.3, watchOS 7.3.2, iOS 14.4.1, and iPadOS 14.4.1, as necessary.

Here's a rapid-fire summary of other infosec news today.

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