From chips to cloud, tech titans continue to splash cash across APAC

Intel and pals automate manufacturing in Japan while AWS pledges billions to Singapore

Tech giants including Intel and AWS joined Microsoft and others this week in announcing investments in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region to build out infrastructure - cloud services, datacenters, and chipmaking facilities - in anticipation of growing AI demand.

Intel and 14 others to automate chipmaking processes in Japan

Intel is hooking up with 14 Japanese companies to develop automated manufacturing tech and associated standards for the backend of some chipmaking processes, according to a statement from one participating company.

Among the companies involved are electronics maker Omron, Yamaha Motor, Sharp, Fuji, Mitsubishi Research Institute, Murata Machinery, materials suppliers Resonac and Shin-Etsu Polymer, and more.

The endeavor is known as the Semiconductor Assembly Test Automation and Standardization Research Association (SATAS).

"SATAS aims to establish technologies for automation of backend processes and standard specifications for back-end processes, develop equipment for backend processes, and verify pilot lines. SATAS's final goal is to put fully automated system for backend processes into practical use by 2028," reads the statement.

Automating such processes is expected to allow countries with higher labor costs to host chipmaking facilities. Japan is in the midst of a population decline and subsequent labor shortage, a problem automation is expected to help solve.

The effort is reportedly set to cost about ¥10 billion ($65 million).

AWS doubles down on Singapore

AWS announced it would spend 12 billion Singaporean dollars ($9 billion) over four years to support and expand its existing cloud infrastructure and operations in the city-state.

The investment was announced at AWS Summit and builds on existing funding of 11.5 billion Singaporean dollars ($8.5 billion) that Amazon poured into the region prior to 2023. The money will reportedly go toward salaries for Amazon staff and costs of importing more specialized equipment and software, construction and datacenter operations, and prepares AWS for the impending additional computational power needed for generative AI tools.

"Besides growing its cloud infrastructure and services in Singapore, AWS will also contribute to the vibrancy of the broader cloud services ecosystem, especially in getting more organizations to adopt cloud services and AI capabilities," boasted senior minister of state Tan Kiat How during the summit keynote. The minister detailed that AWS will also assist in upskilling the local workforce and collaborate with the nation's infocomm authority "to help local enterprises leverage GenAI."

According to documents provided to The Register, AWS reckons the investment will equate to more than 12,300 jobs and provide $13.8 billion of economic value.

So far this year, AWS has already committed to spending $15 billion to expand its cloud empire in Japan. The company is also setting up datacenters in Malaysia and Thailand.

Princeton Digital to build a Malaysia campus on green loans

Datacenter developer Princeton Digital Group (PDG) announced it had secured a $280 million green loan for its 150 MW campus known as JH1 in the Malaysian state of Johor.

"JH1 is one of largest AI-ready campuses in Asia and is designed to cater to the infrastructure demands of some of the world's most pre-eminent AI and cloud companies. The 150 MW hyperscale project is a planned $1.5 billion investment for PDG," the company commented.

The green financing is expected to go toward the first 52 MW phase of JH1, which is slated for service in June 2024.

Nvidia, AirTrunk, GDS International, and YTL Power are among other companies that have set up datacenter operations in Johor.

The state, particularly the southern part and its core city Johor Bahru, is fast becoming a datacenter hotspot, thanks to its proximity to Singapore. The pair are connected by a series of bridges. While Singapore is known as a business hub, it's low on land – a commodity abundant in the Malaysian state.

Speaking at a conference in Singapore on Monday, Kok Chye Ong, managing director for Gaw Capital, described Johor as a "kind of proxy for all the demand coming from Singapore."

"As it relates to risk and all that, I think it's something that we have to capitalize on," he added.

Matthew Benic, head of commercial at Keppel, described the state of energy for datacenters in Johor as "still dirty now."

But while Malaysia may not readily provide renewable energy, said Benic, it does have the right regulatory environment and potential to generate power.

Presumably, if a company can't secure eco-friendly power and is unwilling to relocate, sustainably linked finance will have to do. ®

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