US bans EDA gate-all-around software in China

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Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why the US Department of Commerce is about to impose export restrictions on software needed to design next-generation AI chips, how Airtable is trying to transform itself into an enterprise software provider and AMD is recording another spectacular quarter at Intel’s expense.

Design flaw

In a bid to slow down China’s ability to manufacture advanced microchips, the United States is set to implement an export ban on specific design software that is vital to producing the most advanced chips needed for AI applications, Protocol has learned.

  • After weighing a potential ban for months, the White House opted to order the Commerce Department to restrict the sale of electronic design automation software needed to take advantage of an emerging manufacturing technology.
  • This advanced technology, called gate all around, is needed to produce chips that have greater computing power while using less energy.
  • The export ban will probably arrive soon: in the next few days or weeks, depending on the final details, which are still being worked out.
  • The White House and the Commerce Department did not return a request for comment.

Export restrictions on chipmaking tools are not new. Already, the United States has convinced the Netherlands to prevent ASML from selling its advanced extreme ultraviolet lithography systems to China.

  • EUV systems are required to print the most advanced chips and are exclusively manufactured by ASML.
  • According to William Reinsch, a former undersecretary of commerce, the United States has long preferred to block China’s access to the tools it needs to manufacture advanced technologies, while allowing the sale of the products themselves.
  • Last week, two tool manufacturing companies – KLA and Lam Research – disclosed that the Commerce Department had issued a notice that would block sales of equipment used for manufacturing 14 nanometers and below.
  • It’s unclear how much it will cost Cadence and Synopsys, which make the widely used chip design software. Both have healthy businesses built around the software they are currently licensed to sell.

Tensions between the United States and China are high. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, for an official visit aimed at reiterating the United States’ “unwavering commitment” to supporting the island nation.

  • US-China relations are strained to the point that TSMC Chairman Mark Liu made a rare media appearance on CNN to discuss Taiwan fears.
  • “No one can control TSMC by force,” he said. “If you take military force or invasion, you will return TSMC’s postman[ies] not usable because it is such a sophisticated manufacturing facility. It depends on the real-time connection with the outside world: with Europe, with Japan, with the United States. From materials to chemicals, spare parts, engineering software, diagnostics, and it’s everyone’s effort to get this plant up and running. »

— Max A. Cherney (E-mail | Twitter)

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Airtable… for apps?

Airtable’s “spreadsheet on steroids” has quickly become a favorite of designers and developers looking for a new productivity and collaboration tool. But according to CEO Howie Liu, the company has bigger ambitions to become an enterprise software platform for app development, which could take it to a new level.

As reported by Aisha Counts, Liu believes Airtable’s database can serve as the foundation for app development tools, an idea he observed while working at Salesforce a decade ago. It has already secured a few customers for this emerging part of its business, but the company faces an uphill struggle to convince IT buyers that it’s more than just a fancy spreadsheet.

—Tom Krazit (E-mail | Twitter)

A major difference

AMD told a rather different story on Tuesday than its biggest rival last week, when it delivered its latest quarterly financial report.

For the first time, AMD has started breaking down its data center sales into a separate category, which was previously lumped in with the company’s video game chip revenues, among other things. AMD said data center revenue soared 83% to $1.5 billion, which CEO Lisa Su said was largely the product of its server processor sales.

But big data center chip sales weren’t enough to satiate Wall Street: Shares fell nearly 6% in Tuesday’s extended session on a slightly weaker-than-expected outlook for the quarter in come.

AMD’s server segment has made significant gains in recent years. In contrast, Intel stumbled. Last week, Intel reported data center and AI sales of $4.6 billion, down 16% from the year-ago period.

During the earnings conference call, executives reiterated the company’s upbeat outlook for the year and said AMD was on track to grow overall revenue by 60% to around 26.3 billions of dollars. The CEO said the company expects to achieve its target despite “the current macroeconomic environment.”

— Max A. Cherney (E-mail | Twitter)

Around the company

IBM’s board of directors will investigate allegations that its vendors unduly reclassified mainframe offerings as “cloud” or other newer software offerings, which shareholders said hid the true performance of IBM’s new business.

There is a downside to flea law: Companies like Intel that had already invested in advanced chipmaking operations in China will not be allowed to add additional capacity there if they want their money, according to Bloomberg.

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Thanks for reading – see you tomorrow!

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