The chink in Nvidia’s armour that everybody missed


Like all good investments, the satan’s within the particulars.

Nvidia’s [NASDAQ: NVDA] convention final week was undoubtedly a fan-fare occasion.

The GPU Expertise Convention, which wrapped up on Monday, was the corporate’s first in-person occasion in 5 years.

I hope you realise this isn’t a live performance,’ Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang quipped to a sea of followers. Nevertheless it positive felt like one.

The 900+ periods coated the gambit from AI-drug discovery to the way forward for robotics.

The massive spectacle was keynote speaker Jensen Huang, who captured mainstream consideration by unveiling Nvidia’s new flagship platform, ‘Blackwell’.

Source: Nvidia GTC 2024 Keynote
Supply: Nvidia GTC 2024 Keynote

They named the platform ‘Blackwell’ after David Blackwell. He was an African American mathematician identified for his work in sport principle and statistics.

The ‘platform’ we’re speaking about right here is the host of applied sciences that revolve round their latest AI chip — The Blackwell AI GPU collection seen above.

After its market-defining run with its earlier Hopper chips, just like the H100, the market eagerly awaited its newest providing.

The Blackwell GPU is deliberate for launch in three levels. The B100, B200, and finally the GB200.

These are simply the world’s strongest GPUs, able to working at 20 petaFLOPS. You possibly can consider FLOPS as a proxy for pc velocity.

One petaFLOP performs one quadrillion floating level operations (calculations) per second.

In order for you some type of benchmark, your customary pc at the moment with an Intel i7 processor operates at round 0.2 teraFLOPS.

That’s solely 0.0002 petaFLOPs.

That is a formidable engineering feat, however it was not at all surprising by critical watchers.

Regardless, charts like this have been thrown round to wow the viewers.

Source: Nvidia GTC 2024 Keynote
Supply: Nvidia GTC 2024 Keynote

And it largely labored. As one funding e-newsletter wrote:

A five-year-old youngster may have a look at the above chart and know that one thing unimaginable simply occurred.’

Did it actually although?

Trying across the many experiences about this convention, you’ll possible solely learn lazy experiences parroting specs, or how superb these outcomes are with out context.

Now, I don’t wish to be too unfavourable. It’s clearly a formidable degree of computing efficiency.

However what’s the catch? It seems, there are fairly a couple of caveats.

However that’s thrilling for buyers.

If market gamers are misinterpreting the truth of those bulletins, it implies that there’s hidden worth on this sector.

Like all good investments, the satan is within the particulars.

For starters, let’s evaluate the prior chart to older generations of GPUs…discover something comparable?

Source: Semianalysis
Supply: Semianalysis

The enhancements are the identical!

If we went again a era, you’d see the pattern proceed.

In reality, the enhancements seen by the most recent chip are barely lower than these seen by prior generations.

So, whereas it’s spectacular that we proceed this pattern, the shift to Blackwell shouldn’t be some new paradigm of energy.

It’s extra like enterprise as regular for the GPU chip business.

Curiously, many particulars confirmed indicators of Nvidia’s technical moat shrinking.

What have been they?

Semiconductor’s decade-defining problem

First, we have to go into some technical element about semiconductor chips.

For those who don’t wish to dive deep into chips, that’s positive; be at liberty to skip to the following heading.

However I believe it’s price understanding the factor that powers the digital world round you.

I firmly consider the transistor will stand as probably the most vital invention of the twentieth century, however what’s it precisely?

Let’s use an analogy…

A transistor might be regarded as a faucet in a sink. Water flowing via the tap is like the present flowing via the transistor.

By turning the deal with of the tap, you management the move of water, permitting roughly to move via.

Equally, by making use of a voltage to the bottom of the transistor, you’ll be able to management the move of present via the transistor.

By turning the ‘move’ on and off, you may have one thing that lets present move or not.

Therefore, it’s a ‘semi’-conductor.

These transistors turning on and off kind the idea of the binary code (1 & 0s) that characterize all the data of our digital age.

Right here’s a simplified view of what these semiconductor chips appear like.

Source: Wired Magazine
Supply: Wired Journal

On the ‘die’ is the place you’d pack these transistors and their connections (zoomed prime proper).

Perceive this…

These semiconductor connections are crucial to efficiency.

Breakthroughs in velocity and energy usually include new generations that change these die connections and transistor shapes.

This particular space is a key battleground within the race to advance microchip expertise.

Nvidia and TSMC [NASDAQ:TSM] are the most important gamers on this area, with TSMC being the most important producer of Nvidia.

You possibly can consider it as Nvidia supplying the design whereas TSMC makes the chip.

Nvidia’s Blackwell chip will pack an astonishing 208 billion transistors on its two mixed chips.

You’ve possible heard of Moore’s Regulation, the concept that the variety of transistors on a chip doubles each two years.

So, by 2030, we should always have an astonishing 1 trillion transistors on chips.

We’ve had over 50 years of Moore’s Regulation, however issues are beginning to gradual.

We’re now creating transistors which can be so small that we’re hitting bodily obstacles.

Why is that this related to Blackwell?

Effectively, the Blackwell chip is the primary new GPU from Nvidia that’s on the identical underlying semiconductor ‘node’ or era.

It is because Nvidia’s important chip provider, TSMC, has had points with its subsequent era of chips.

TSMC has dominated the chip house for years however is now experiencing ache because it transitions to its subsequent nodes.

The shrinking of transistors has reached the purpose the place their small measurement has brought about a number of electrostatic points on the chips.

On-chip energy prices are excessive as transistors bleed present when not in use, elements face shrinkage, and efficiency enhancements are slowing.

The Blackwell Chip will probably be one of many final FinFet transistor chips after over a decade of dominance.

What we glance in direction of subsequent is Gate-All-Round (GaaFET) Transistors.


Source: Samsung
Supply: Samsung

What GaaFET are is a bit advanced for right here, however if you’d like some deeper studying, then examine this text out.

What’s related to us now— and what was missed by most— is that the FinFET compromises have been papered over by different specs that weren’t related to the GPU itself.

For instance, the chip shouldn’t be one GPU chip however, in reality, two which can be mixed. This ‘chiplet’ fashion has been adopted by rivals for a very long time however has been traditionally criticised by Nvidia.

This reality was ignored by many who have been as a substitute wowed by Nvidia’s boasting of quicker connection speeds between the 2 chips.

Different missed elements have been issues just like the velocity boasted earlier being restricted to an imprecise 4-bit floating level knowledge kind and the necessity for liquid-cooled servers to run them.

The technical causes for these many compromises are essential to notice and return to, even when you don’t perceive them totally now.

One other one is called the ‘reticle-limit’ on the earth of photolithography.

Because of this for future chip transistors to be smaller, they may require new specialised instruments from increased up within the provide chain.

That’s from producers like ASML— for his or her lithography machines— or Zeiss for his or her lenses.

In reality, when you proceed up this extremely advanced provide chain, you can see not less than 4 near-complete monopolies.

These go all the way in which again to a single quartz manufacturing facility in North Carolina that provides the entire sector.

From specialist chemical substances in Japan to excessive bandwidth reminiscence from Korea — the story is extra advanced than many think about.

Right here is an efficient overview of what the semiconductor house appears to be like like presently.

Source: Bharat Jha
Supply: Bharat Jha

The takeaway right here is that this entire provide chain is a fragile steadiness that crosses many nations past the singular concentrate on Taiwan.

So any huge change from right here would require a fancy interaction of provide agreements and technological retooling that may’t be flicked like a change.

A superb instance was the US-imposed export ban of ASML lithography instruments that froze China out of the most recent chip manufacturing.

As a response I’d anticipate the much less advanced chip market quickly being flooded by Chinese language gamers.

However for Nvidia…

What do these adjustments imply?

A brand new era of chips is required past Nvidia’s Blackwell.

These adjustments require a major shift in each chip design and the lithography instruments to construct them.

This implies a window has opened up for rivals to regain market share in semiconductors and chips like GPUs.

TSMC and Nvidia’s important rivals have lengthy understood this and waved the white flag way back.

As a substitute of competing now, they’ve begun spending on the following era of transistors and chips.

Samsung and IBM have been the primary to design these new generations of GaaFET transistors.

And whereas TSMC says it expects quantity manufacturing to start in 2025. Between every now and then is a transparent opening for disruption.

For Alpha Tech Dealer members, I’ll be trying fastidiously at one other chipmaker who I believe may re-assert itself on the worldwide stage because the premier chip marker.

However for now, it’s Nvidia and TSMCs world, and I’ll be keenly watching what these main firms do subsequent…

For Traders who aren’t already a part of Alpha Tech Dealer and wish to be part of within the coming alternatives in tech and different sectors, we’ve opened the Speculators Membership.

It’s not a brand new buying and selling advisory however a limited-time supply on a set of our providers which can be able to seize this bull market second.

Learn to join right here.


Charlie Ormond,

Tech Analyst, Alpha Tech Dealer

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