Multiple delays of Intel's 10 nm process technology have affected the company's roadmap in many ways. While the company seems to be on track with its client 10nm CPUs, server processors are a whole different matter as they have different qualification and production cycles. In its Q3 FY2020 conference call, Intel announced that it would have to delay initial shipments of its 3rd Generation Xeon Scalable 'Ice Lake-SP' CPUs to Q1 2021.
"We and our customers are excited about the upcoming launch of our 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable product, the Ice Lake-SP," said Bob Swan, CEO of Intel, during the company's earnings call with analysts and investors. "We are targeting qualification at the end of Q4 with volume ramp shortly after in Q1."
Intel once implied that its Xeon Scalable 'Ice Lake-SP' processors would launch in 'the middle of 2020,' but eventually said that the CPUs would ship in the fourth quarter of this year mostly because of delays associated with the ramp of 10 nm products. Back in July, Intel said it would ship its first Ice Lake-SP parts late this year. Yet, for the sake of truth is necessary to note that for a while, Intel has promised Ice Lake-SP's volume ramp in 2021.
"We are also targeting initial production shipments of our first 10-nanometer-based Xeon Scalable product, Ice Lake, for the end of the year," said Swan.
This week the company confirmed that it had built pre-PRQ reserves of its Ice Lake-SP parts, which is why its operating margin was down in the third quarter.
Intel's production release qualification (PRQ) is not a high-volume product launch. Yet PRQ parts are considered sellable as they have passed Intel's qualification requirements: They are produced in high volume, are ready for commercial shipment, and are typically supported by the applicable Intel warranty agreements and customer presentable documentation. At the PRQ stage, Intel's partners have to essentially finalize all their designs and BIOSes to get ready for a commercial launch.
Essentially, Intel is set to start volume production of its Ice Lake-SP processors in the coming weeks, but it is not going to ramp up manufacturing until Q1 2021 as its partners yet have to pass all their qualification requirements.
Intel's delay of first commercial Ice Lake-SP shipments to Q1 2021 cannot be considered dramatic or a demonstration that the company's 2nd-Gen 10nm process technology is still not ready for big chips as the company is about to start building Ice Lake-SP PRQ silicon in the coming weeks. But what remains to be seen is how quickly Intel can ramp up production of its next-generation Xeon Scalable parts in Q1 and how quickly its clients will adopt the new CPUs.