LONDON – Intel now has the tools in place – in particular an on-chip interconnect fabric, an extensive IP library and software – to make a success of its system-on-chip engineering effort, according to Bill Leszinske, general manager of technical planning and business development at Intel's Atom processor SoC development group.
Intel has been striving to break out of the computer sector for many years and its system-on-chip engineering group is a key part of that effort.
Few people have doubted that Intel has a high performance processor in the Atom and the manufacturing processing lead. But a couple of years ago observers questioned the power performance of Atom and the SoC group seemed to toy with third party manufacturing a deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. to allow Atom-based SoCs to be made there. However, no takers were heard of and there was criticism that while Atom may be good for PC-like applications extending down to netbooks, Intel lacked the broader infrastructure, particularly the on-chip and complementary IP blocks, to pursue diverse applications.
Leszinske said Intel is aiming at an SoC power consumption budget of about 7 or 8 watts down to less than one watt and is now accelerating its introduction of leading-edge low power processes tailored for SoC applications and the low power Atom cores to exploit those processes.
Intel is introducing the Saltwell core at 32-nm this year and the Silvermont core in 22-nm in 2013 and Airmont core in 14-nm in 2014. This is almost twice the pace of the two-yearly manufacturing process introduction that is traditional at Intel, said Leszinske.
"SoC engineering has strong engagement with TMG," said Leszinske referring to Intel's Technology Manufacturing Group. "This allows us to best optimize SoC processes for target applications. Medfield, due in the first half of 2012 is a chip based on the Saltwell core, which Cloverfield, due in 2H12, is a dual-core implementation of Saltwell.
In addition, Intel has more than just CPU and graphics performance to offer but IP and interconnect assets to create complete solutions.
This is a huge step forward for Intel if they are going to a real player in the Embedded market because on-chip integration of IP blocks (especially comms & analog) is expected these days. IOSF, yet another acronym for the pot!
"an extensive IP library and software" Yet watch the IP trolls come out of the woodworks anyway with an enormous lawsuit based on their own (questionable) patents. Lets hope this time Intel will mount a large tough countersuit to put these vultures out of business for ever.
Inevitable that Intel goes SoC, it doesn't want to become a commodity part of the system, but the system itself on one chip. But that means the chip's power budget will have to increase to encompass the system's power budget. It's going to be hard to market.
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