As inconceivable as it may sound, your next Nvidia GPU could be manufactured by Intel. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang held a question and answer session with the press today, and the topic quickly turned to Intel's Foundry Services (IFS) initiative that will see Intel making chips for other companies as part of its IDM 2.0 initiative. Surprisingly, Huang confirmed that his company is considering using Intel's foundry to possibly make some of its chips. Intel is now a direct competitor with Nvidia on both the CPU and GPU fronts, but Huang also explained that Intel and AMD have known Nvidia's secret roadmaps for years, so he isn't paranoid about sharing more information.
"Our strategy is to expand our supply base with diversity and redundancy at every single layer. At the chip layer, at the substrate layer, the system layer, at every single layer. We've diversified the number of nodes, we've diversified the number of foundries, and Intel is an excellent partner of ours[…]. They're interested in us using their foundries, and we're very interested in exploring it," said Huang.
Huang did hedge somewhat, explaining that operating as a foundry is very different from operating as a standard product-oriented company like Intel. "Being a foundry at the caliber of TSMC is not for the faint of heart; this is a change not just in process technology and investment of capital, but it is a change in culture, from a product-oriented company to a product, technology, and service-oriented company," Huang explained.
"A service-oriented company that dances with your operations. TSMC is a services company that dances with, what, 300 companies worldwide? Our own operations are quite an orchestra, and yet they dance with us. And then there's another orchestra they dance with. So the ability to dance with all of these operations teams and supply chains teams is not for the faint of heart, and TSMC does it just beautifully. Its management, its culture, and its core values, and you put that on top of technology and products." Huang said.
"I am encouraged by the work that is done at Intel, I think this is a direction they have to go, and we're interested in looking at their process technology. Our relationship with Intel is quite long; we work with them across a whole lot of different areas, every single PC, every single laptop, every single PC, supercomputer, we collaborate." Huang said.
Huang explained that using Intel as a foundry services partner would take an extended period of time. "Foundry discussions take a long time, and it's not just about desire. We have to align technology, the business models have to be aligned, the capacity has to be aligned, the operations process and the nature of the two companies have to be aligned. It takes a fair amount of time and a lot of deep, deep discussion – we're not buying milk here. This is really about the integration of the supply chains. Our partnerships with TSMC and Samsung in the last several years are something that took years to cultivate. So we are very open-minded to considering Intel, and I'm delighted by the efforts that they're making."
Intel now makes GPUs, and Nvidia now makes GPUs, meaning the two companies will now compete directly in several market segments. Huang also commented about potential concerns with sharing Nvidia's secrets with Intel, and his response was quite revealing:
"We have been working closely with Intel, sharing with them our roadmap long before we share it with the public, for years. Intel has known our secrets for years. AMD has known our secrets for years. We are sophisticated and mature enough to realize that we have to collaborate.[...] We share roadmaps, of course, under confidentiality and a very selective channel of communications. The industry has just learned how to work in that way."
"On one hand, we compete with many companies, but we also partner deeply with them and rely on them. As I mentioned, if not for AMD CPUs in DGX, we couldn't ship DGX. If not for Intel CPUs and all of the hyperscalers connected to our HGX, we wouldn't be able to ship HGX. If not for Intel's CPUs in our Omniverse computers that are coming up, we wouldn’t be able to do the digital twin simulations that rely so deeply on the single-threaded performance that they're really good at."
Huang's governing philosophy for how Nvidia deals with its partners is far from the "Only the paranoid survive" mantra that was popularized by Intel legend Andy Grove:
"It turns out that paranoia is just paranoia. There is nothing to be paranoid about. It turns out that people want to win, but nobody's trying to 'get ya.' So we try to take the not-paranoid approach when we work with partners. We try to rely on them, let them know we are relying on them, trust them, and let them know we trust them. So far it is working pretty well," Huang said.