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Intel Discontinues Multiple Ethernet Controllers to Fight Shortages

Intel
(Image credit: Intel)

In a bid to streamline its Ethernet controller lineup, simplify production, and improve supply, Intel initiated products discontinuance plans for dozens of its server-grade Ethernet controllers and adapters last week. The chips and cards are not going to disappear overnight, but a year from now Intel’s Ethernet family will be significantly narrower.

"Intel is accelerating the End of Life (EOL) plans for some controller products in order to consolidate and maintain supply for high-volume products," a statement by Intel reads. "Some Ethernet adapter products are also affected by the controller EOL plans." 

Late last week Intel published more than 30 product discontinuance notifications for multiple Ethernet products, including popular Intel GbE I211-AT and 10GbE X550-AT controllers that are widely used both in datacenters as well as in desktops and workstations, reports CRN. Depending on the exact SKU, Intel’s customers will have to make their final orders for the controllers and adapters by January 22 or April 22, 2022. Intel will ship the final units in late April or late October, 2022. Some of the EOLed Ethernet products will still be shipped throughout 2023. 

Intel has one of the industry’s largest lineups of Ethernet controllers aimed at a wide variety of applications. Supporting such a lineup is hard since all chips are made using different (or slightly different) process technologies at third-party foundries, feature different packaging, and may be shipped with different drivers. All these factors make logistics of these products pretty tricky, and things get even more complicated amid the ongoing global chip shortage. 

"Global demand increases, shortages of wafers from external manufacturing capacity, and industry wide substrate shortages have significantly impacted the supply of Intel Ethernet controllers," Intel explained. "This has limited Intel’s ability to meet the unprecedented demand of Ethernet controllers." 

To make the matters worse for Intel, the company's partners tend to install exactly the same Ethernet chips into their designs for years and if they cannot get what they need, they prefer waiting to qualifying different controllers or cards. In many cases, waiting for the right chips makes them slow down purchases of Intel's higher-end server processors, which hurts Intel's financial results.

Consolidating product portfolios and getting rid of certain SKUs is a good way to improve supply of popular and higher-priced models. Several years ago Intel discontinued numerous not-so-outdated CPUs in a bid to improve supply of higher-performance Core and Xeon processors made using then latest iterations of the company's 14nm fabrication process. NICs may not be as sexy as CPUs, but the same logic applies.