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Research and development at Intel: Key Focus areas


Intel is a leading technology brand. The Intel Inside logo found on more desktops and PCs has made it famous all over the world. The company is also among the fortune top 50 brands.  In the recent years, the company has changed its business model from a PC centric model to a data centric model. This has resulted in faster growth and better financial results. However, the growth of Intel is also a  result of its sharp focus on research and development. Each year the company invests a significant sum in research and development. R&D plays a critical role in helping the brand achieve its strategic objectives.

Apart from making the world’s best semiconductors, the other areas where Intel excels include autonomous driving, Artificial Intelligence as well as end to end solutions. The company invests in research and development to grow its competitive strengths and to create new products and technological solutions. The company has also strengthened its R&D initiatives by investing in other companies, acquiring companies as well as by entering into R&D partnerships or even by directly purchasing or licensing technologies. During the past five years, the company has consistently increased its investment in R&D while also increasing its focus on key priorities. Simultaneously, the brand has also kept exiting its non-core businesses. For example, the company divested its Wind River Systems Inc in 2018.

The research and development efforts of Intel are focused on six key areas which are dealt with in detail below. In each of these areas, the goal of the company is to improve user experience by advancing performance, power, cost, connectivity, security features, form factor, and other features with each new generation of products.

Process technology :-

Next generation manufacturing process is one of the most critical areas of research for the company. However, it is also pursuing innovations in packaging technologies to make new approaches to chip design possible. Intel announced a new 3d technology called Foveros in 2018. This technology allows for “stacking of logic chips, enabling products where input/output (I/O), static random-access memory (SRAM), and power delivery circuits can be fabricated in a base die and high performance logic “chiplets” can be stacked on top”. Combined with Intel’s Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) technology, Foveros makes new hybrid chip designs possible which can be manufactured in different process nodes into a single system-in-package, this making new design flexibility and new device form factors possible.

Architecture :-

Intel is moving towards a model of providing multiple “xPU” compute platforms to address more diverse computing needs.  The company is designing products for four major computing architectures—scalar (CPU products), vector (GPU products), matrix (AI accelerator products), and spatial (FPGA products). Intel announced Sunny Cove in 2018. It is Intel’s next-generation CPU microarchitecture, with architectural extensions designed for special-purpose computing tasks including AI and Cryptography. The company is also continuing its work upon its first discrete GPU.

Memory : –  

This is also one of the core priorities of INtel in terms of Research and development. The company is consistently investing in this area to disrupt the existing memory hierarchy. It is developing new products with its 3D NAND and Intel® Optane™ technologies. Its Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory, combines memory-like performance with the larger capacity and persistence of storage and brings more data closer to the CPU. This improves the processing of big data sets like those used in AI and larger databases. The QLC 3D NAND technology  of INtel allows users to move more data from hard disks to SSDs and thus gives them faster access to their data.

Interconnect : –

5G is expected to disrupt the existing market for digital technologies. It is a hot area where Intel has grown its investment in R&D. There are several players focusing on 5G and Intel also wants to strengthen its competitive position through higher investment in research and development over 5G. Intel has brought a large range of interconnect solutions, ranging from silicon to the data center to wireless.  The silicon photonics technology of Intel integrates lasers into silicon to create high-speed optical connections which can remove networking hindrances in the data center. Apart from 5G modems, Intel is also making other products that can help the service providers transform their network for 5G.

Security technologies : –

Intel has also made significant investments into research and development related to security technologies. The company has got built-in security features integrated into its design process and roadmap. As computing and computing related needs of clients have kept evolving, he need for higher security has also grown. Security is a hot area where many other technology brands are also making major investments like Intel. During the first half of 2018, the company created Intel Product Assurance and Security Group. The purpose of this group is to serve as a center for security research across Intel’s products and businesses. It seeks to monitor not just the current security threats but also the evolving security threat landscape and to continuously improve the security of its products in the coming years.

Software : –

The role of software is critical to unlocking the full potential of the hardware products that  Intel makes. In this area, Intel aims to unify its software abstractions across all of its xPU platforms. The company is working to develop a  project called OneAPI to make programming for developers simpler across its CPU, GPU, FPGA, AI and other accelerator products, providing a unified portfolio of developer tools for mapping software to the hardware that can best accelerate the code.