Intel Kills Off Several Ethernet Controllers To Cope With Shortage

The semiconductor giant says it’s discontinuing more than 30 Ethernet controller and adapter products for servers, citing a desire to ‘maintain supply’ for Ethernet products that sell in higher volumes. The end-of-life notices were issued after Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger warned in a recent earnings call that an Ethernet controller shortage was constraining growth for the company’s Data Center Group.

Intel is discontinuing several Ethernet controller products to cope with the global chip shortage that CEO Pat Gelsinger said is having a significant impact in the data center market.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company issued end-of-life notices for more than 30 Ethernet controller and adapter products on Saturday, citing a desire to “maintain supply” for Ethernet products that sell in higher volumes. The chipmaker set a final order date of January 22, 2022, or later for the server products, which will see their final shipments between April 2022 and April 2023.

[Related: IBM CEO Arvind Krishna: Chip Shortage ‘More Likely’ Continuing Until 2023 Or 2024]

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“Global demand increases, shortages of wafers from external manufacturing capacity, and industry wide substrate shortages have significantly impacted the supply of Intel Ethernet controllers,” Intel said in the product change notifications. “This manufacturing capacity constraint has limited Intel’s ability to meet the unprecedented demand of Ethernet controllers. Intel has accelerated End of Life plans for some controller products in order to consolidate and maintain supply for high-volume products.”

Intel did not immediately respond a request for further comment.

In many cases, Intel is “strongly encouraging” customers and partners to “immediately” transition to alternative products the company has recommended.

However, in the case of four discontinued products, Intel said there is “no drop-in replacement, recommended redesign or adapter” for existing server designs. The impacted products consist of the Intel Ethernet Controller X550-BT2, Intel Ethernet Controller X550-AT and Intel Ethernet Controller I350-BT2 versions that are sold on trays to OEMs. It also impacted the version of the Intel Ethernet Controller I350-BT2 that is sold in tape-and-reel packaging.

The end-of-life notices were issued after Gelsinger warned in Intel’s third-quarter earnings call Thursday that an Ethernet controller shortage was constraining growth for the company’s Data Center Group revenue, which increased 10 percent year over year despite supply issues due to a “strong recovery” among enterprise customers.

“Overall, the server business is constrained by supply, and this would be things like Ethernet controllers and power supply devices that are holding us back from achieving. And trust me, we would be shipping a lot more units if we weren’t constrained by the supply chain of these other components in the industry,” Gelsinger said.

He added that Intel’s cloud and OEM customers both “have very strong backlogs that they’re pressing us aggressively to satisfy,” but shortages of products like Ethernet controllers are holding Intel back from fulfilling orders that also include readily available components.

Ahead of Intel’s earnings last week, Gelsinger told CNBC that the global chip shortage will continue at least until 2023, although he expects a “gradual” improvement next year.

Dominic Daninger, vice president of engineering at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based systems integrator, told CRN that it isn’t surprising Intel would consolidate a product portfolio to focus on supply for top-selling items, but it is a sign of the challenging shortages the industry is facing.

“They only have so much bandwidth like anybody else, and they’re going to use that where it’s to their best advantage,” he said. “We’ve seen that kind of thing over the years. It’s a little bit of an unusual scenario here but not hugely surprising.”

Daninger said Nor-Tech has seen server lead times at least double from the typical three-week delivery time frames largely due to shortages of GPUs and RAID controllers and not Ethernet controllers. He said this has impacted the operations of one customer, a medical device manufacturer, that plans to use GPU servers to inspect assembly lines.

“I’ve seen that sitting in our queues here, I’ll bet, for four months,” he said.