MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Next-generation 20 nm processes can support optimized versions for low power and high performance, according to an IBM expert. GlobalFoundries will decide in August whether or not it will offer such variations.
Those were just two data points from wide ranging discussions at the GSA Silicon Summit here. Separately, executives said a variety of 3-D ICs will hit the market in 2014 despite numerous challenges, and CMOS scaling is slowing down but still viable through a 7 nm node.
“Recently TSMC said at 20 nm there are no significant differences [in process optimizations], but I don’t believe that,” said Subramanian Iyer, an IBM fellow and chief technologist in its microelectronics division. “I believe at same node you can have two [different variations],” he said in a keynote here.
Indeed, GlobalFoundries is debating whether it wants to offer high performance and low power variants of a 20 nm process it is putting in place today.
“We are still talking with lead customers to see what is the right thing to do, and there’s a lot of interest in performance and power trade-offs,” said Subramani Kengeri, head of advanced technology architecture at GlobalFoundries in a brief interview with EE Times.
The variations available at 20 nm may be relatively narrow and may not be economically viable, he said. Iyer of IBM said TSMC’s decision to offer one flavor of 20 nm may have been more of an economic than a technical decision.
The follow-on 14 nm process using FinFETs will open up greater opportunities for a high performance version at up to 0.9 volts and a low power variant at down to 0.6 volts, Kengeri said. In addition, the 14 nm node could offer as much as twice the typical benefits of moving to a new node.
The historic challenge of offering variations of a process is that each one requires a different set of unique and complex features added to the base process, said Iyer of IBM. “All the little features we have are like drugs, we can’t drop them without severe withdrawal symptoms,” he said.
There's room for variation at 20 nm, said Subramanian Iyer.