Who's growing faster than Nvidia and AMD? Rising datacenter star Marvell

Of the top 10 fabless chip designers, the Big M soared in Q1 thanks to switch ASICs

In the world of fabless chip designers, AMD, Nvidia and Qualcomm usually soak up the most attention since their chips are fueling everything from top-end supercomputers to mobile devices.

This hunger for compute is what has allowed all three companies to grow revenue in the high double digits recently. But there's one fabless chip designer that is growing faster among the largest in the world and it's far from a household name: Marvell Technology.

Silicon Valley-based Marvell grew semiconductor revenue by 72 percent to $1.4 billion in the first quarter, which made it the fastest growing out of the top 10 largest fabless chip designers during that period, according to financials compiled by Taiwanese research firm TrendForce.

A chart showing the 10 largest fabless chip designers by revenue in the first quarter of 2022, as compiled by TrendForce.

For the most part, the largest fabless chip designers saw high sales growth.

That means Marvell grew just faster year-over-year in the first quarter than AMD, which increased revenue by 71 percent to nearly $5.9 billion; Nvidia, which increased revenue by 53 percent to $7.9 billion; and Qualcomm, which increased revenue by 52 percent to $9.5 billion.

Marvell, which has been around since the mid-1990s, makes chips for networking, storage, and compute purposes, though the latter area is now focused on data processing units (DPUs) and security chips after the company stopped making mass-market, Arm-based CPUs for datacenters in 2020. These chips are serving datacenters and cloud infrastructure as well as the enterprise, automotive and telecom markets.

What allowed Marvell to grow so fast in the first quarter was revenue associated with the Innovium switch ASIC business, which the company acquired for $1.1 billion last year. According to TrendForce, Innovium contributed 125 percent annual growth to Marvell's datacenter revenue in the first quarter.

As our sister site The Next Platform described in the wake of the acquisition, Innovium makes high-bandwidth, low-latency Ethernet switch ASICs and focuses mostly on cloud service providers and other so-called hyperscale companies that have high-performance networking needs. The Ethernet switch ASICs, which now fall under Marvell's Prestera brand name, competes with ASIC product lines like Intel's Tofino, Broadcom's Trident and Tomahawk, Cisco Systems' SiliconOne and Nvidia's Spectrum.

In its first-quarter earnings report, Marvell said revenue for all datacenter products grew 131 percent and accounted for 44 percent of total revenue [PDF]. The company's push into the datacenter, telecom and enterprise markets over the last several years has allowed it to shift away from consumer markets to the world of infrastructure.

"With 88 percent of our overall revenue derived from data infrastructure, we are confident that our unique secular growth drivers in cloud, 5G, and auto, will continue to help drive sustainable long-term growth," Matt Murphy, Marvell's president and CEO, said last month.

In TrendForce's list of the 10 largest fabless chip designers, the company noted that a much lesser-known company ranked third in revenue growth for the first quarter, albeit from a very low base.

Cirrus Logic, an Austin, Texas-based semiconductor firm that makes low-power audio and high-performance mixed-signal processing chips, saw revenue growth of 67 percent year-over-year to $490 million in the first quarter. TrendForce credited this major increase with the chip designer's acquisition of Lion Semiconductor last year, which gave a nice boost to the company's mixed-signal business.

Bootnote

It should be noted that TrendForce's chart for fabless chip designers only tracks semiconductor revenue, so the figures reported by the firm may not match the total revenue disclosed by each company.

For instance, the revenue for Qualcomm only includes data from its Qualcomm Technologies business, and Broadcom's figure does not include sales from its software businesses. ®

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