Intel couldn't shrink to 7nm on time – but it was able to reduce one thing: Its chief engineer's employment

What, or rather, who's that going under wheels of Chipzilla's bus?

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Intel on Monday shook up its engineering management ranks after not only admitting its 7nm manufacturing pipeline had stalled due to defects but also that it is considering asking rival factories for help.

Chipzilla said, effective Monday, August 3, chief engineering officer Venkata "Murthy" Renduchintala will exit the business, and the position will be eliminated from its corporate structure. From now on, five department heads within Intel's Technology, Systems Architecture and Client Group will all be monstered by CEO Bob Swan until 10nm and 7nm are fixed report directly to the chief exec.

Those five bigwigs are:

  • Ann Kelleher, who will focus on 7nm and 5nm as Technology Development leader. She will replace Mike Mayberry, who retires this year. Kelleher previously oversaw Intel's manufacturing work, including the ramp up of its disastrous 10nm node.
  • Keyvan Esfarjani, who will run Manufacturing and Operations after previously managing the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group.
  • Josh Walden, who is the interim boss of Intel's Design Engineering workforce, and is searching for someone to fill the role full-time. In the meantime, he will continue to oversee the Product Assurance and Security Group.
  • Raja Koduri, who continues to run the Architecture, Software and Graphics teams.
  • Randhir Thakur, who is still the supply chain chief.
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“I look forward to working directly with these talented and experienced technology leaders, each of whom is committed to driving Intel forward during this period of critical execution,” CEO Bob Swan said in a canned statement. "I also want to thank Murthy for his leadership in helping Intel transform our technology platform."

Yes, transform is one way of putting it.

The shake-up in the technology side of Intel's business is not unexpected, given that not only was 10nm years late in arriving, and is still taking its sweet time to arrive in meaningful desktop and server parts, but also 7nm is now six months behind schedule, and a year behind expected yields, at least, due to a defect in the fabrication process. In fact, everything we're hearing now about 7nm is pretty much what Intel said about 10nm when the wheels started to come off that node, so Intel may be about to lurch from horror to catastrophe.

Intel had hoped 7nm would help it regain ground lost to rivals during the 10nm fiasco, and now the wings have fallen off that phoenix. Even more humiliating is the CEO's suggestion that Chipzilla might have to use a competitor to manufacture some of its 7nm GPU dies though it's still incredibly uncertain whether or not those rivals would accept the contract or if they have the capacity to do so or how much work it would take converting Intel's blueprints to match another foundry's fabrication techniques.

The revelation caused Intel's share price to dive by as much as 10 per cent as markets realized America's lead in the semiconductor world was coming to an end, and Taiwan's TSMC was pulling ahead with orders from Apple, Nvidia, AMD, Qualcomm, and others for 7nm parts. Intel has effectively surrendered its comfortable manufacturing lead.

Even if Intel does manage to get its 7nm chips to market by its new timeframe of late 2022 or early 2023 for desktop parts, and 2023 for server processors, it will be chasing its TSMC-backed competition. AMD, Marvell, and Nvidia are expecting to have families of 5nm chips on the market by the end of next year. ®

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