Samueli said he has briefed customers that prices for leading edge chips will increase, starting with the 20 nm generation due to rising fabrication costs. Market watcher Gartner Inc. recently estimated the average 45,000 wafer/month fab could pay a premium of about $500 million per process node due to the need to use two or more lithographic exposures to etch finer lines.
Stacking chips into so-called 3-D ICs promises a one-time boost in their capabilities, “but it’s expensive,” said Samueli. Broadcom expects to use 3-D stacks to add a layer of silicon photonics interconnects to its high end switch chips, probably starting in 2015 or later, he said.
“We are talking with potential [3-D IC] partners, but we don’t have it all sorted out yet,” he said.
Another industry veteran and EE on a panel with Samueli took issue with the Broadcom exec’s predictions. “The real situation is we have 10-15 years visibility and beyond that we just don’t know how we will solve [the problems of CMOS scaling] yet,” said Dave House, chairman of switch maker Brocade and a veteran of 23 years at Intel.
At Intel, House interacted regularly with Intel co-founder Gordon Moore who articulated the theory that roughly every two years chip makers would be able to double the number of transistors on a CMOS chip.
“In the 1970s I started preaching Moore’s Law will solve all our problems, and Gordon stopped me and said, ‘Ten years out, I don’t think it can continue,’” House said. “Ten years later, Gordon said again, ‘I only see about ten years here.’
“It became a regular thing at Intel strategic meetings where Gordon would say beyond ten years I don’t see it continuing,” said House who is also an EE by training. “As time went on there was always enough money spent and smart scientists” to solve CMOS scaling issues, he said.
“It could be we will have a firm barrier [at 5 nm], but I wouldn’t bet on it [because] the consequences will be so severe” he added.
In conversation after the event, Bob Metcalfe, one of the original inventors of Ethernet and the keynoter of the event shared his thoughts with Samueli and others.
“One of the big things I learned today is Moore’s Law is related to the elasticity of bandwidth—it not only creates the machines that need more bandwidth, it also creates the machines that provide that bandwidth,” he told Samueli. “If you are right and Moore’s Law ends, so will this bandwidth elasticity,” Metcalfe said.
Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe chatted with (from left) Andy Bechtolsheim of Arista, Bethany Mayer of HP and Henry Samueli of Broadcom.
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