Intel lands $15 billion foundry deal for custom Microsoft processor — 18A process tech to be used for ‘very exciting platform shift’

Intel Foundry announced Wednesday at IFS Direct that Microsoft has chosen Intel’s 18A (1.8nm-class) process technology for its next-generation custom processor. The chip will be produced and packaged by Intel Foundry in a deal that’s valued at $15 billion — the biggest deal that Intel’s contract chip-making division has landed to date.

“We are in the midst of a very exciting platform shift that will fundamentally transform productivity for every individual organization and the entire industry,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “To achieve this vision, we need a reliable supply of the most advanced, high-performance and high-quality semiconductors. That is why we are so excited to work with Intel Foundry, and why we have chosen a chip design that we plan to produce on Intel 18A process.” 

$15 billion is a lot of money, so we’re probably talking either about a very high-volume product that will be made and deployed for several years, or a series of products based on Intel’s 18A fabrication process that relies on gate-all-around RibbonFET transistors and features Intel’s PowerVia backside power delivery network.  

Microsoft’s mention of an ‘exciting platform shift’ for the ‘entire industry’ may point to both innovative methods of chip production as well as new CPU architectures and paradigms. 

By now, Intel Foundry has secured contracts from multiple notable companies, including Amazon Web Services. Intel Foundry has landed several orders for datacenter processors, including a cloud datacenter chip on Intel 3, a custom server chip for Ericsson, and various Intel 18A-based chips for the U.S. Dept. of Defense. The $15 billion deal with Microsoft is the largest design win that the contract chip-maker has announced so far, and can certainly be considered a big win for Intel.

Neither Intel nor Microsoft has disclosed when Intel will start producing Microsoft’s 18A-based processors, or when these chips are set to be deployed. Intel 18A is projected to be production-ready in the second half of 2024, so theoretically we could see Microsoft’s 18A-powered chips over the next couple of years.

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