SAN FRANCISCOXilinx Inc. said Monday (Feb. 22) it will use leading foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) as one of two foundry suppliers for its 28-nm FPGAs, a major strategy shift that has been the subject of industry rumors and analyst speculation for weeks.
Xilinx (San Jose, Calif.) said it is using TSMC and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s foundry division to make 28-nm parts, which are expected to begin sampling by the end of this year. Xilinx has long used a two foundry strategy at each process node. Samsung first joined Xilinx' foundry supplier roster at the 40-nm node, supplanting Toshiba.
Xilinx' shift to TSMC is a bitter pill for rival foundry United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), which has been a foundry supplier to Xilinx for more than a decade. Some analysts blamed 65-nm yield issues at UMC for a supply glitch that last summer materially impacted Xilinx sales, speculation which UMC later denied.
UMC (Hsinchu, Taiwan) will presumabably continue to manufacture Xilinx parts at 65-nm, 40-nm and other nodes.
Suresh Menon, product development vice president for Xilinx' programmable platforms development group, said Xilinx evaluates foundries' process technology at every process node in order to determine which suppliers to use.
"In this generation, as in every generation, we look at the needs for our next generation FPGAs and identify what process we need to deliver that generation of products," Menon said.
Xilinx is emphasizing power management in its 28-nm products
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Menon said static power is a very significant portion of the total power dissipation of a chip at 28-nm. The choice of process technology at 28-nm is critical to achieving maximum power efficiency, he added.
Menon said TSMC and Samsung offered Xilinx the best process technology options for high-performance, low-power process technology at 28-nm. Xilinx has been working with the two companies on 28-nm development for more than two years, he said.
Some analysts, including Ian Ing of Broadpoint Amtech, have been saying for several weeks that Xilinx was expected to use TSMC at the 28-nm node.
Altera Corp., the chief competitor to Xilinx in the programmable logic market, has used TSMC as its foundry supplier for years. Menon said the Xilinx-TSMC agreement would not restrict TSMC from working with Xilinx competitors. He noted that this is typical of TSMC's business practices and said TSMC manufacturers parts for competing suppliers in many markets, including graphics chips.
Xilinx and Samsung last week announced that Spartan-6 FPGAs have achieved volume production on Samsung's 45-nm process.