LONDON – IBM appears set to gradually back away from semiconductor manufacturing and to rely for its leading-edge silicon on Samsung and GlobalFoundries as foundry suppliers. Both Samsung and GlobalFoundries are set to have wafer fabs for foundry operations in the United States, which could help cement relations.
IBM, GlobalFoundries and Samsung are set to co-host the Common Platform Alliance Technology Forum at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California on January 18, 2011, but whereas GlobalFoundries and Samsung are set to spend $12 billion in 2011, IBM's spending is likely to be less than $500 million according to data from an analyst at market research firm Gartner.
For years IBM has been a beacon of research in semiconductor technology and had carried that work into manufacturing with its own processes and wafer fabs. As well as including aggressive process miniaturization its pioneering work has included high-frequency RF on CMOS and silicon-on-insulator. Such was its leading position in research that it was able to drive the Common Platform Alliance as a means of sharing semiconductor process research costs.
But an analysis of the capital expenditure plans show that IBM is gradually allowing itself to exit from leading-edge manufacturing at high volume. IBM appears to have joined the broad class of semiconductor companies that will never build a major wafer fab again.
An examination of capital expenditure data from Gartner reveals that the last time IBM spent more than $1 billion on semiconductor capital expenditure in one year was 2004, when it was the 11th biggest spender.
IBM is not in the top 20 of semiconductor capital expenditure in 2010 and nor is it expected to be in the top 20 in 2011, according to Bob Johnson, research vice president with Gartner.
There are going to be 10 or 11 companies in the billion-dollar capex club in 2011, according to Johnson's latest figures. The top 20, with their spending in millions of dollars, is currently set to be:
The research is the source of IP and therefore the differentiator in the marketplace. With fab costs skyrocketing the need to leverage the fab price tag over many chip streams and customers it becomes a better business model. As long as there is sufficient capacity and 2nd/3rd sourcing options this will continue to be the way to keep costs down and enabling resources to be concentrated on generation of money streams.
Good article. I heard IBM had discussions with Global Foundries this summer about selling their Fishkill fab to them. I also heard Global Foundries decided to pass on the opportunity since IBM was asking for too much money.
I am tired of everybody saying that fabs are consolidating because capital equipment prices are skyrocketing. Has anyone thought that they might be confusing cause-and-effect at least a little bit. For the capital equipment makers, the cost of producing better-and-better performing systems has not gone down. Yet there are increasingly fewer customers out there buying fewer tools because they want to save money by, "consolidating". I hate to break it to these guys but consolidation only works if you are the only one doing it. When everyone does it, prices skyrocket because there are fewer tool sales to spread your fixed costs across. This does not even take into account R&D and additional costs from the loss of capability and experience as engineers and technicians flee the capex industry.
No matter how much they try to streamline to reduce their costs, the more the hidden costs will, "skyrocket", no matter how much they whine (don't hold your breath for capex manufacturers to pick up 450). They will end up with more bottlenecks and, "premium", pricing for in-time orders. Intel knows this and will continue making money from the foolishness of others.
This has been the stratergy adobpted by many semiconductor biggies. TI sold some of its fab (they retained analog fabs) and went for TSMC. If this helps companies to cut down expenses, nothing wrong in this.
Peter, that is really an old news - we both know that. IBM is a system and R&D/Engineering services company and usually a decade ahead of the rest of the industry in strategic directions, including with its asset-lite strategy.
Its research is formidable and critical to, for example, GlobalFoundries' long-term viability. I was one of questining TSMC's prowess in research - versus its superb strengths in low cost manufacturing and customer service.
However, recently I was impressed by breakthrough credit to TSMC by Dr. Kelin J Kuhn, Intel Fellow, Director of Advanced Device Technology, Portland Technology Development. She led the development of 90nm, 45nm, 22nm and 15nm process technologies at Intel and is currently engaged in the development of the 11nm CMOS process technologies:
"Recently, TSMC found a method to overcome a technical problem related to fin FETs, which I have been concerning about for a long time. It developed a technology to apply strong strain to the channel of fin FET. This is a major advance toward commercial production of fin FETs."
Of course, we can be sure that both Intel and IBM are deep in the "post-silicon" IC research...
Boris @ Petrov Group
That's 2 very big 'ifs'. At 22nm and below, second sourcing will be history - transistor variability and ever-more complex DFM will take care of that - and leading-edge capacity, always tight, will be run even more leaner by the foundries (assuming there will be more than one 'real' choice) anxious to run in under rather than over capacity mode. Hey ho!
Why not cut down on R&D as well ... that would save a whole bunch of money too! Sorry but cutting expenses like these doesn't grow your business ... it's a long slow death by self-imposed strangulation.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.