Intel believes its process technology could eventually give it the lead in low power processing.
LONDON – Though ARM may currently have an advantage in low power processing, Intel believes it could eventually take the lead if it maintains its current pace of advancement in process technology.
Speaking to the firm’s executive vice president and head of architecture David (Dadi) Perlmutter recently, EE Times learned that Intel is pushing ahead with its sub 20-nm and 14-nm plans, while the ARM ecosystem struggles to find a business model beyond 22 nm.
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Intel is biding its time. The semi giant appears quite prepared to wait a couple of generations until sub 20-nm nodes are breached before bringing the battle of low power processing to ARM and its mobile partners.
Indeed, Intel claims to have line of sight all the way to a 7-nm process, with all the firm’s CPUs becoming SoCs as of next year. Haswell will be Intel’s 22-nm SoC for tablets and Ultrabooks, while Merrifield will be the company’s SoC for tablets and smartphones.
After that, 14 nm is expected to be Intel's killer node with the most dramatic power improvements and integrated baseband--although the firm has yet to officially announce it.
Meanwhile, the ARM ecosystem has a rather more challenging road ahead of it, with low cost continuing to present a challenge for foundry supply, yield and materials science. ARM is seeing Moore's Law slowing down due to a lack of foundry spending and a deficit in R&D capabilities.
Even at the 28-nm, the ARM ecosystem is feeling the squeeze. Until very recently only one foundry (TSMC) could yield 28-nm chips, with Globalfoundries just starting to produce 28-nm in volume, and the entire industry is under-supplied.
With Intel pushing ahead to introduce FinFETs at the 22-nm and hoping to use EUV lithography at 14 nm and below, ARM faces an even bigger crisis of competition.
Meanwhile, Intel’s design teams work hand in hand with the the company's fabs, in one unified effort. “We always work very closely with the fab,” said Perlmutter. “Each time we put a new big challenge in front of the giant team,” he said, adding that every time the focus centered on new and different aspects of the technology.
“If you develop technology, every day you bounce into a problem which may seem to be a showstopper,” he explained, discussing the various challenges the teams had overcome hitting the targets for Haswell’s design.
“What looked to be hugely complicated 10 years ago looks like a piece of cake now. We have to overcome new things every time around, so we have an 'aha' moment every day, every minute in every single Intel product,” he said.
It is neither. Analysts have been predicting difficulties in sub 20-nm for ARM for a long time, and the problems at 28-nm prove that the road ahead will only be more difficult. Yes, there is a significant investment going into foundries like TSMC and GlobalFoundries, but even representatives from those fabs don't like to argue about the business model sub 20-nm. It's simply going to get much more difficult and costly. Hardly a conclusion, but it is a deduction. Everything that Dadi said is either attributed to him or is in quotations.
Is the paragraph below what Dadi said, or is this E.E. Times' conclusion about the non-Intel camp? It does seem like investments are fairly robust at TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung.
"Meanwhile, the ARM ecosystem has a rather more challenging road ahead of it, with low cost continuing to present a challenge for foundry supply, yield and materials science. ARM is seeing Moore's Law slowing down in its foundries, due to a lack of investment and also to a deficit in R&D capabilities."