Missing in action

Those that keep an eye on the tech press may have noticed cries of alarm that there is a global chip shortage, especially if you’re a gamer wanting to get your hands on the latest generation of graphic cards from AMD or Nvidia. The bad news is that it’s not just GPU silicon that’s gone missing.

Pretty much every electronic device today needs silicon chips in some form (especially if there are any form of smarts included) and this has put pressure on the supply chain in several different ways.

The root cause for this the conflation of demand from several different sources all clamouring for additional capacity:

  • AMD & Nvidia launching their new generation of graphic cards (and demand for them from crypto-mining operations)
  • Next-generation consoles from Sony & Microsoft
  • Apple moving from Intel to their own in house Risc silicon
  • Smart cars requiring much more complicated silicon for various smart application
  • 5G (the iPhone 12 was delayed slightly due to the shortage)
  • The global pandemic changing peoples buying habits (more electronic hardware for home entertainment)

Since the pressure is coming from many different directions so it’s difficult to say when this will be fixed. A new fabrication unit to make more silicon takes about 2 years to come on stream but the Chinese & Korean manufactures have been working to get their existing units to churn out more silicon on the existing lines (some claiming over 120% output for a single facility).

There was an initial drop in the capacity as the pandemic closed a number of the facilities and then operated at a reduced capacity but these issues have been resolved. Oh and somebody parking a ship in the Suez delayed quite a lot of the more consumer hardware (more expensive core network hardware tends to fly).

What does this mean for Jisc?

The good news is that normal operations aren’t affected, we have arrangements for spares in the case of faults and issues so that we can get anything replaced as normal.

The real impact is that any new hardware orders are now coming in with lead times much longer than normal, devices that were on 6-8 weeks lead time are now showing as 2-4 months. Special equipment that was on three months is being quoted as closer to six (although that’s a massive generalisation and some items are coming through much quicker).

If you are currently looking to order hardware for your own network getting those orders in earlier than normal is probably worth considering, or at least speaking to your vendor to gauge how much impact it will have on you.

By James Blessing, post date19th May 2021


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