Reports coming out of China indicate that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has inked deals with NVIDIA and Qualcomm to produce high performance computing (HPC) chips that will be used for artificial intelligence applications, among other things. That includes the fabrication of NVIDIA's next-generation Volta GPUs using a 12-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process.
Rumors had surfaced in January that NVIDIA had tapped TSMC to build its Volta GPUs, and assuming the new reports are accurate, it would appear that contract negotiations have been finalized. TSMC certainly has the capacity. It is the world's largest foundry company, accounting for 60 percent of the global foundry market. The company raked in nearly $30 billion in 2016.
NVIDIA will pair its Volta GPUs with its Xavier supercomputer chips. Xavier is a system-on-chip (SoC) built around a customer 8-core processor architecture and is billed as a replacement for the recently announced Parker-based Drive PX 2 platform (which is powered by two Denver cores and four ARM Cortex-A57 cores). NVIDIA announced Xavier at the European edition of the GPU Technology Conference, where it was billed as an AI supercomputer built from the ground up for use in self-driving cars.
TSMC is also producing the 256-core Pascal GPU and dual-core Denver 2 CPU for NVIDIA's Jetson TX2 platform, which is an embedded supercomputer designed to enable new classes of AI driving products. The platform can be used for intelligent factory robots, commercial drones, and smart cameras.
"Jetson TX2 brings powerful AI capabilities at the edge, making possible a new class of intelligent machines," said Deepu Talla, vice president and general manager for NVIDIA’s Tegra business. "These devices will enable intelligent video analytics that keep our cities smarter and safer, new kinds of robots that optimize manufacturing, and new collaboration that makes long- distance work more efficient."
As for Qualcomm, the reports do not say what specific chips it contracted TSMC to build, though an earlier order has TSMC building Centriq 2400 server processors built on a 10nm manufacturing process for the company. Volume production has begun on these parts.