LONDON – ARM CEO Warren East is not concerned that Intel Corp. is developing a lead in process technology over the foundries that ARM licensees usually deal with. This is despite the fact that FinFET technology for ARM processors may not be in volume production until the second-half of 2015, according to foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
The use of FinFETs, where transistors stick up above the wafer surface, is considered to offer improved performance of transistors and to reduce leakage current in the off-state. Intel is already manufacturing in volume using in a 22-nm FinFET CMOS process while TSMC is attempting to ramp up planar 28-nm CMOS for is customers.
Nonetheless East told EE Times that ARM and TSMC together lead Intel in the system-on-chip (SoC) technologies where they compete with Intel. "We are concerned about integrated SoC. For SoC Intel is manufacturing using 32-nm high-k metal gate planar CMOS. TSMC is manufacturing using 28-nm high-k metal gate. That doesn't sound like a massive lead to me. If anything you could argue that TSMC is ahead."
East said that Intel's 22-nm FinFET is being used for high-volume PC chips but it would be no easy matter to make an SoC device with an extensive range of peripheral circuits in that process.
Intel has smartphone and tablet computer designs based on its Atom-based 32-nm Medfield processor. Intel is expected to manufacture its Atom low-power processor in the 22-nm FinFET CMOS process in 2013 in an architecture called Silvermont. Merrifield could be a 22-nm FinFET implementation for high-end smartphones.
With regard to the 16-nm FinFET process from TSMC and a 20-nm FinFET process from UMC East said: "It's hard to say exactly when it [FinFET for ARM] is going to arrive."
ARM processor cores are also supported on a 28-nm fully depleted SOI (FDSOI) process developed by STMicroelectronics NV and being transferred to foundry GlobalFoundries Inc. (Milpitas, Calif.) that is expected to subsequently shrink to 20-nm.
@nc3, Infenion uses foundry to make their SOCs. I am guessing that SOC you mentioned is a older design, designed keeping foundry in mind.Doesn't make any sense to make that at Intel Fab.Cost prohibitive. And if a special process is needed, it will take time to develop,
If you work for Intel now, tell me this, where does Intel makes its periphery chips & SOC for its server & MP chips?
Everybody uses slightly older technology to make Mixed mode or analog chips. They do not always need the latest technology.
This is not an excuse for Digital IP & memory they are designed using latest tech.
"East said that Intel's 22-nm FinFET is being used for high-volume PC chips" - Warren East in classic understatement mode omitted to mention that its high *margin* PC chips that Intel is making.
This is all playing out along the lines in Clayton Christensen's book which is well over a decade old now. Intel cannot wean itself off its cash cow, just as Kodak couldn't.
Either Warren is in a denial mode (i.e. ARM-based SoC is behind Intel) or NC3 wasn't aware of the whole story behind the 22nm at Intel (if I were Intel, I would keep on making the Infineon mobile ARM SOC on foundry because of the risk involved, hence this is no proof of the said issues with Intel 22nm) or people at Intel have been lying through their teeth. Based on the public information, Merrifield is scheduled for release in H2CY2013. This implies that the Merrifield SoC has already been sampled! Warren could be hiring private investigators to validate the birth of Merrifield SoC ;-)
Peter, do you know what Warren meant when he speaks extensive range of peripheral circuitry. It seems to imply that Intel could not manufacture SoCs using its FinFet technology due to these circuitry. The IvyBridge processors using FinFet do have PciE intefaces including the analog(ish) serdes and other non-digital PLLs etc integrated. Is there some other type of SoC circuit that is not FinFet friendly?
It probably won't be difficult for Intel TD gurus to develop a planar CMOS technology to meet SOC requirement. But it would take time and effort for TD. Besides, mfg. cost in Intel's fabs can't compete with the more cost effective foundry fabs. So why bother, they can use foundry just as well.
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.