A report from SemiAccurate today claimed that Intel has significantly delayed its "entire server roadmap," and a follow-on report from Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers, which cites the SemiAccurate report and "industry checks," seemingly reaffirms that Intel has hit yet another roadblock on its path to recovering from its incessant 10nm delays, thus impacting delivery of the Ice Lake processors for the data center.
However, in a statement sent to Tom's Hardware, Intel maintains that its data center roadmap remains intact and on-schedule:
"Intel remains on track for delivery of the Whitley platform starting with production of Cooper Lake in H1 2020 followed by Ice Lake production in H2 2020. We are also on track to follow Whitley with the delivery of Sapphire Rapids in 2021," an Intel spokesperson said.
These remarks echo the company's reassurances this week to its investors at the UBS Global TMT Conference. In response to a question about Intel's ability to compete given that AMD now has the process lead, Dr. Murty Renduchintala, Intel’s group president of the Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group and chief engineering officer, responded:
"[...]And of course by the end of 2020, we'll come out with Ice Lake, our first 10nm server solution that brings important performance-per-core benefits to the surface. So all in all, I think we have an aggressive roadmap that we feel pretty good about to deal with the competitive landscape."
When asked if he was "just reconfirming that Ice Lake will be out in the second half of 2020," Murty replied saying "yes."
We've spilled a lot of ink on Intel's delayed 10nm node and the impact it has had on the company's competitive positioning. Intel’s delays have left the door open for AMD to capitalize with its capable Epyc Rome processors and intensified industry interest in alternative architectures, like ARM.
Intel's repeated delays have left many to question the company's ability to execute on the troubled 10nm process. But according to Intel's repeated statements, the Whitley platform, which will support both 14nm Cooper Lake and 10nm Ice Lake processors, is on track.
Intel CEO Bob Swan also remarked on the roadmap in the company's third-quarter earnings call in October:
"And in terms of competitive dynamics, I would just say that, we've got a great lineup of products. We got Skylake to Cascade Lake first half of next year we're looking at Cooper Lake. As we talked before, we're really excited about Ice Lake server coming out in the second half of next year[...]," he said, as per a transcription via Seeking Alpha.
Determining if Intel is on track can be tricky, and the company's data center roadmap has seen its share of delays in the past. The company told us in August 2018 that Cooper Lake would arrive in 2019 but presented a new roadmap in May 2019 at its investor meeting to reflect the new arrival date of 2020.
That means Intel's statement today references the above roadmap, issued in May 2019, as the current timeframe for delivery. It's noteworthy that this roadmap says production shipments of Ice Lake begin in the first half of 2020, while the company's recent statements say production begins in the second half of that year.
Finally, Intel presented this roadmap at its HPC Developer Conference in Denver, Colorado, last month. This roadmap reiterated the arrival of Cooper Lake and Ice Lake in 2020 and added Sapphire Rapids, which will power the exascale Aurora supercomputer, in 2021.
Intel's last two roadmaps, Murty's comments last week, Swan's comments in October and Intel's statement today all point to Cooper Lake, Ice Lake, and Sapphire Rapids adhering to that schedule.
But the proof is in the pudding. Both SemiAccurate and Wells Fargo's Rakers claimed that Intel's roadmap has slipped further. Although Intel refuted those claims directly today, its incessant delays on 10nm products mean we won't know the absolute truth until the company begins shipping the silicon. Given the error of margin with Intel's roadmap projections, it's possible we won’t know if Ice Lake is actually on track until December 31, 2020.