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The cloud is the fiercest front in the chip wars

It is easy to think of the computing cloud as the placeless whereabouts of the latest Netflix series, your Spotify playlists, millions of wanton selfies and your digital assistant. It is even easier to ignore it altogether, at least until Alexa alerts you that your storage space is filling up and helpfully offers to rent you extra room, of which there always appears to be more available.

Necessary, disembodied and, for $9.99 a month, to all intents and purposes limitless: it is the ether of the digital age. This ether, though, has a very unethereal side—the vast data centres where all this information is physically stored and, increasingly, processed by powerful computers known as servers. The semiconductor hardware that makes the servers powerful is fast becoming the hardest-fought front in the battle over the $600bn global market for computer chips.

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