It looks like GlobalFoundries, IBM, and other Common Platform members have done a little soul searching and decided to abandon the gate-first manufacturing approach they've been championing for some time. AMD and GlobalFoundries have made it clear that they're committed to gate-first manufacturing through the 28-nm half-node, but as Real World Technologies' David Kanter reports, GlobalFoundries' 20-nm fab process will be a gate-last one.
The specifics are a little above my head, but another article by IMEC explains that the terms gate-first and gate-last refer to "whether the metal electrode is deposited before or after the high temperature activation anneal(s) of the flow." Kanter points out that both Intel and TSMC have adopted the gate-last approach, while IBM and GlobalFoundries were pursuing gate-first becaused of purported density advantages that "overshadow the defectivity and performance benefits of gate last."
No more of that. Kanter says some folks are partly blaming the gate-first approach for delays in GlobalFoundries's 32-nm ramp, and he reckons switching to gate-last will allow for a smoother ramp to 20 nm. Transistor performance could be higher on a gate-last 20-nm process, as well.
Considering how well Intel has been executing lately, AMD really needs all the help it can get from the manufacturing side. Here's hoping GlobalFoundries will be able to deliver.