It's official. Although Moore's Law isnít exactly dead, it's evolving into a new beast, at least insofar as programmable logic technology is concerned.
As long as I can remember, the way of the world has been that when a new technology node was reached, it was adopted for all of the family members in a suite of programmable logic devices. For example, when the folks at Xilinx adopted the 28nm technology node, they released their lowest-power, smallest form-factor Artix; their best price-and-performance per watt Kintex; and their high-capacity, high-bandwidth Virtex families at this node. They also released their Zynq All Programmable SoC devices at the 28nm node.
Well, the times they are a-changin'. Xilinx has just announced two "industry firsts" at 20nm, with the tape-out of the semiconductor industryís first 20nm device, and the PLD industryís first 20nm All Programmable device. Xilinx has also implemented the industryís first ASIC-class programmable architecture called UltraScale.
These milestones expand on Xilinxís previous 28nm tape-outs of All Programmable SoCs, All Programmable 3D ICs, and an SoC-strength design suite. The really interesting point is that only the Zynq All Programmable SoCs and the Kintex and Virtex All Programmable FPGAs and 3D ICs are migrating to the 20nm technology node and the UltraScale architecture -- the Artix family will remain at the 28nm node for the foreseeable future.
At this time, I don't know what is going to happen in the future when Xilinx moves from the new 20nm planer process to the 16nm FinFET ("FinFast") process. It may well be that the Virtex family comprises the only ones to migrate to the 16nm process -- at least for some period of time. In this case, this will be the first time (to my knowledge) where the latest generation of offerings actually spans three process nodes.
Note that this is completely different from a company continuing to support legacy products implemented at earlier process nodes -- what we are looking at is a suite of programmable logic families with the latest and greatest members of each family being implemented at a different technology node.
I only wish I had a crystal ball that I could use to peer 5, 10, 15, and 20 years into the future...