This summer, Intel Canada is celebrating its 20th anniversary in British Columbia with the continuous growth of its Vancouver campus. The site is a home for more than 200 engineers and support staff who are dedicated to the development of world-changing technology in networking and cloud infrastructure products as well as Intel’s semiconductor foundry.
Techcouver sat down with the Director of the Intel’s Vancouver site, Jonathan Schmidt, to learn more about the contribution of Intel Vancouver to the local eco-system/economy and Intel on a global scale.
Intel is known for the long tenure of its employees with the company. Tell me about your career at Intel, how it started and what is your role as the lead of Intel in Vancouver?
JS: Since joining Intel Vancouver in 2007, I have been involved in quite a number of transformational products in high-tech. For example, the entire solid-state drive industry (SSD) was essentially created by Intel with the launch of the X25-M SSD in 2008, which the Vancouver team helped successfully deliver. Since then, our team has been working hard at the core of nearly all of Intel’s memory and storage products, including the revolutionary Optane technology. Contributing to this exciting roadmap has afforded me many opportunities to learn and grow into new responsibilities, particularly the transition from engineering to management. Today I lead an experienced team of silicon developers who are contributing to the success of Intel Foundry Services.
What is the focus of Intel Vancouver in terms of R&D? What are the engineers at the Vancouver site working on?
JS: Notably, the Vancouver site has grown significantly from just 35 engineers when I joined in 2007. At that time there was only one project that essentially everyone contributed to. Now we host staff from multiple business units in Vancouver, including my team in Foundry Services (IFS), another large team in the Networking & Edge group (NEX), plus some individuals and smaller teams contributing across other areas of Intel.
Intel’s internal foundry model is fundamental to the company’s overarching IDM 2.0 strategy, that’s why Vancouver is a key player in the overall strategy to rebalance the global semiconductor supply chain.
The IFS team is contributing to the System Foundry strategy, enabling foundry customers to develop their projects and designs on Intel’s process technology by developing reference designs, accelerating IP integration, and providing value-added services such as high-level modeling to enable early software development.
The NEX team is developing several foundational NIC products as well as working on another industry-first: Intel’s Infrastructure Processing Unit (IPU) product line. The IPU is a novel and efficient way to build out cloud and enterprise data centres by accelerating network infrastructure and reducing overhead from the main processors so they can focus on the target application.
What is the role the local site plays in the city’s economy/tech eco-system and with Intel’s global business?
JS: Intel is a big player in Vancouver’s high tech industry, directly employing over 200 engineers and supporting staff and indirectly supporting many others via contracts, partnerships, etc. As I mentioned, all these staff contribute to Intel’s IDM2.0 strategy, which is to diversify semiconductor production, bringing it closer to home in North America. The Vancouver IFS team is vertically-integrated and participates in many functions from architecture and pre-silicon design/verification through power-on and post-silicon validation.
Also, we have great relationships with the local and regional post-secondary schools and have provided a wonderful experience for many students via internships, helping them learn and launch their careers.
What makes Vancouver an attraction to tech companies?
JS: Vancouver is a sweet spot for the tech industry for a few key reasons. First and foremost, all the amazing local talent we have! Partnering with Canadian universities has been a huge advantage for Intel to attract and grow a talented employee base. Secondly, we are in very close proximity to other USA technology centres including Seattle and Silicon Valley (California). We’re even in the same time zone as the headquarters for most American tech companies, so in the increasingly-virtual work environment (where people can contribute from anywhere), Vancouver teams integrate easily, not requiring any special logistical accommodations. Lastly, the BC government is very friendly to technology employers, offering R&D credits and other incentives.
What are Intel’s future plans for its Vancouver site? How do you see it evolving?
JS: Intel’s Vancouver site is already home to employees from multiple top-level business units (e.g., Intel Foundry Services and Networking & Edge Group) and we intend to expand in both depth & breadth across Intel’s portfolio of products and services. The IFS team is at the core of the System Foundry strategy, providing value-added services to IFS clients globally. I see this role expanding as the IFS business grows from a few key customers to the second largest foundry in the world. Similarly, the NEX team is instrumental in delivering the IPU product line (silicon and software) which will become more and more strategic as it rolls out across the cloud industry. Over time I can see other business units recognizing the unique capabilities offered here in Vancouver and we welcome those avenues for growth as well.