The tide ran away from metaverse, and the new bottle continued to contain the old wine

In the past two years, it seems to have become a consensus in the industry that all companies with technology should rub the heat of metaverse.

In March last year, this wind blew up since roblox wrote “metaverse” into the prospectus. Half a year later, foreign Facebook changed its name to meta, and three domestic bat followed in its footsteps. Super giants such as Microsoft and apple finally gave up their positions.

Recently, in the domestic market, an upstream company closest to these science and technology network enterprises also began to build metaverse, which is the leader in the server field – Inspur information.

As early as the early 1990s, sun Pishu, the current chairman of Inspur Group, led the team to develop the first minicomputer server in China. This was a unique way when various it players gathered in the PC field at that time.

As the first person to eat crabs in the server industry, with the development of domestic server market, Inspur information has become one of the most powerful server manufacturers in China and stood on the top of the wave.

However, when Inspur information desperately sells server equipment. Huawei, Zhongke Shuguang and other peers have turned and began to develop further upstream of the supply chain.

At present, the homogenization of domestic server manufacturers is extremely serious, and as a midstream enterprise in the supply chain, if it lacks core technology, it is essentially a large-scale assembly plant, which will eventually lead to that even if it becomes bigger, it will not become stronger, which is also a difficulty under the current situation of Inspur information.

Once, Inspur information had countless opportunities to make continuous investment in solutions and chips in the development of the times, but sun Pishu, a technical worker, still adhered to the relatively mature and conservative road of “trade, industry and technology”.

However, sun Pishu is a person who is good at “eating crabs”. Under the outlet of metaverse, Inspur information has become the first enterprise in the industry to enter metaverse. However, Inspur information without core technology may still have little room for imagination.

01 big but not strong wave

As the second largest server manufacturer in the world and the largest in China, Genzheng Miaohong’s Inspur information is undoubtedly the representative of the independent server industry.

But a little observation will show that selling servers 20 years ago, just like Lenovo selling computers, was a fat job with a lot of money. Now it is actually a brick moving job that only earns yells but doesn’t make money. The living state can also be summarized by being angry from top to bottom.

Because Inspur information has shortcomings in both the upstream supply chain that determines the fate and the downstream customers, which directly determines the dilemma of “big but not strong”.

From the upstream, the CPU, memory and disk of the three key equipment of Inspur information supply server are all monopolized enterprises such as Intel, NVIDIA, Samsung, Seagate and Western data.

According to the statistics of the annual report, since 2019, the total procurement proportion of the top five suppliers of Inspur information has exceeded 60%, with a total of more than 29.1 billion yuan. By 2020, this value will reach 38.1 billion yuan.

As the largest supplier, Intel and NVIDIA, two core chip manufacturers, supplied a total of 24 billion yuan, accounting for 41%; In addition, Seagate, Samsung and other hard disk and memory suppliers have a supply volume of more than 4 billion yuan. This also makes Inspur information almost have no bargaining power in the face of upstream supply chain manufacturers.

Although the data of 2021 has not been released, it can be predicted that Inspur information has not made a breakthrough in the three core devices of the server, and no new suppliers have been found according to the new products released.

Over reliance on upstream manufacturers is also easy to fall into the risk of supply interruption.

On July 1, 2020, Intel announced that it would temporarily suspend supply to Inspur. Affected by this, Inspur information’s share price plunged rapidly in the afternoon of that day and was quickly hit to the limit.

Later, confirmed by Intel and Inspur information, this is only because Intel needs to make some corresponding adjustments to the supply chain in accordance with the relevant laws of the United States, so it has to temporarily suspend the supply of this customer for a period of two weeks.

Although it was a false alarm, it exposed the weakness of the wave information. Insiders also said, “according to the consistent style of the U.S. government, even if you are not suppressed today, it is difficult to guarantee that you will be attacked one day. Any Chinese server manufacturer is at risk of being cut off by the United States at any time. It is urgent to strengthen its independent and controllable ability.”

Inspur information seems to disagree. An investor once asked on the open platform, what is the company’s response to Intel’s short-term supply interruption? Whether to lay out the chip and processor industry, whether to adopt domestic processor Godson instead, and whether it is easy to be controlled by American suppliers all the time?

Inspur information responded that the company’s current production and operation is normal, and Intel has resumed supply. The company’s business orientation is the R & D, production and sales of the whole server. The server products can adapt to a variety of architecture processors, including domestic processors.

Obviously, it is difficult for netizens to be satisfied with such an answer. Many professionals pointed out that if we recognize the current international situation, especially the supply chain situation, it is not difficult to see that it is obviously not so safe for Chinese manufacturers such as Inspur and Lenovo to put their eggs in one basket.

Of course, Inspur information does not want to master the core technology. It has also explored in the field of high-end technology before.

In May 2009, qimengda Technology (Xi’an) Co., Ltd. was taken by Inspur and renamed Xi’an Huaxin. At that time, Inspur’s move was interpreted as Shandong began to vigorously develop the integrated circuit industry.

Authoritative experts in the industry also said that qimengda Xi’an R & D center has the world’s most advanced semiconductor memory product design and development ability. This acquisition enables Langchao to have a memory chip design and development team synchronized with the international advanced technology level, and takes a substantive step towards building China’s independent memory industry.

It’s just that the later stories are very sad. Inspur no longer follows the “wave” of semiconductor development, voluntarily abandons Xi’an Huaxin with high gold content and continues to start the server business.

The reason behind this is that some insiders once disclosed that “the R & D cost is too large, the R & D cycle is too long, and the result is unknown. These are the factors for Inspur to give up Huaxin”.

The customers of Inspur information are relatively concentrated, mostly strong Internet companies and relevant government units. Data show that more than 65% of the revenue of Inspur information comes from Internet enterprises. Among them, more than 90% of domestic cloud service manufacturers such as Alibaba cloud, baidu cloud and Tencent cloud are their customers.

At present, Inspur information mostly adopts JDM (join design manufacturing) development mode, that is, joint development with enterprises, which makes its R & D and supply cycle must be greatly shortened. In addition, for these large customers, the required account period is generally longer.

This will lead to the fact that these customers can bring good market share and revenue to Inspur on the surface, but they can reflect little value in terms of actual profits. Insiders also said that these internet customers, Inspur information, are basically shouting at a loss and have almost no bargaining power.

The same is true. From the past financial reports of Inspur information, its net profit has stabilized to less than 3%, and even in the dawn of Zhongke, whose shipments are far behind the Inspur in the domestic market, the net interest rate is also 6.7%.

Therefore, it can be considered that the so-called growth and leadership of Inspur information in the domestic and even global server market is not because its products have extremely high technical barriers and irreplaceable, but more because this “price for volume” model has won the first mover advantage in the market.

At present, peers in the industry, including Huawei, Zhongke Shuguang and other enterprises, are developing their own chips, taking the “technology, industry and trade” route, and have made some achievements. Although it is still difficult to achieve independent control of high-end chips in the short term, for the capital market, self-developed chips represent imagination space and growth space to a certain extent.

However, Inspur information has no plans to develop high-end technologies by itself. In other words, if you want to maintain growth, you need to tell more new stories in the server market. Metaverse, which its downstream service providers are doing, seems to be the best story to tell at present.

Is metaverse an opportunity?

In early March this year, Inspur information ipf2022 conference was held as scheduled. At this conference to show itself to the outside world, Inspur information took out the industry’s first metaverse server metaengine.

It cannot be denied that this wave of information has become the enterprise that eats crabs again.

However, looking back on the company’s strategy in recent years, whether it is smart computing, open computing or smart computing center, these fields first entered by the wave have only provided them with bigger capital, and there has not been much breakthrough in core technical barriers. Of course, the most important thing is that these new businesses have not improved the poor financial results.

From 2019 to the first three quarters of 2021, the revenue of Inspur information was 51.6 billion yuan, 63 billion yuan and 46.2 billion yuan respectively, without significant growth. In addition, the annual net profit margin is still pitifully low.

Insiders said that in recent years, Inspur information can often be the first enterprise to “eat crabs”. In fact, the main reason is the demand from customers.

Because most of the customers of Inspur information are the world’s top Internet enterprises, these enterprises have increasingly refined their demand for computing power, and Inspur JDM mode can enable them to understand customer needs in more detail. This means that Inspur information can get product feedback faster than its peers to some extent, and the product update frequency will naturally be faster.

Enter metaverse and launch metaengine. Many customers of Inspur information service are exploring metaverse, and need higher computing power when building and running metaverse. Traditional servers have been stretched, and Inspur information, which has a closer relationship with customers, can launch metaverse servers faster and targeted to meet customer needs.

Therefore, the foresight of Inspur information can be understood as a behavior of downstream service providers forcing midstream suppliers to a certain extent.

However, although Inspur information can rely on such advantages to enter new fields first and occupy the market first, in essence, it can not change its big but not strong core problem, or even change the current situation of low profit. This time, entering metaverse is no exception.

First of all, the action of Inspur information in metaverse has not changed the current situation of upstream and downstream. Not now, at least not for a long time to come.

According to the chips and storage units matched by metaengine, its main core components still rely on old suppliers such as NVIDIA, Intel and Seagate; Not to mention downstream buyers, metaverse server is the product based on their needs.

Even the wave of information entering the “metaverse era”, whether upstream or downstream, is still similar to that before, belonging to the two sides.

In addition, metaverse is still in its infancy. Even Zuckerberg, the most radical founder of metaverse, said, “it may take a few years for metaverse to realize its functions. At present, the metaverse we are familiar with and witness is still a conceptual metaverse.”

In this case, advance layout does not seem to be a good choice. As a midstream enterprise in the industrial chain, its product ceiling is still determined by the upstream enterprises in the supply chain. It can be understood that the metaverse server of Inspur information is essentially an assembly and optimization of more and more high-end processors and storage media.

In other words, even if the future wave information can rely on metaverse to expand its revenue, it may still be in a difficult position in terms of net profit.

Of course, the fact that the outside world is not optimistic about Inspur information stems from the word chip. Because different from other industries, China has many so-called independent core chip genres in the server field, but there is no name of Inspur information.

Zhongke Shuguang has Haiguang and Huawei has Kunpeng. Both have the ability to develop their own chips. Although they are still far from the world’s top chips, this is obviously more imaginative than the wave information without this ability, which can be well reflected in the secondary market.

The market share of Inspur information is much higher than that of Inspur information, but the market value of Inspur information is several billion higher than that of Inspur information. In terms of price earnings ratio (TTM), as of the close of the press day, the price earnings ratio of Inspur information is 43 times, while Inspur information is only 18 times. To a certain extent, this can also reflect that the dawn of Zhongke is relatively more imaginative.

Many years ago, Inspur information has tried the “technology, industry and trade” model, although it was finally abandoned in tears. But now, Inspur information has occupied a leading market share. In this case, the “trade, industry and technology” mode is obviously out of date, and it is urgent to return to “technology, industry and trade”.

Because if the profit margin is suppressed for a long time, it will greatly limit the growth space of Inspur information, and the story of assembling servers will be finished sooner or later. Without core technology, it is bound to become a mine that may detonate at any time.

Inspur information is good at being the first company to “eat crabs”. However, Inspur, which likes eating crabs so much, has not been able to create a set of tools with core patents. As we all know, if you don’t have a set of handy equipment, you can eat very little meat.