GlobalFoundries tapes out 20-nm ARM test chip

When it’s not busy cranking AMD processor silicon out of its fabs, GlobalFoundries is getting busy with its other customers and partners—and that includes ARM. Earlier today, GlobalFoundries announced that it’s taped out a 20-nm Technology Qualification Vehicle for system-on-a-chip devices based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 design.

What does this Technology Qualification Vehicle do, you might ask? We’ll let GlobalFoundries answer that one:

The two companies worked closely together to develop a TQV strategy that allows GLOBALFOUNDRIES to optimize its advanced process technology for customer designs based on Cortex-A series processors. The solution is more than a standard test chip. Each TQV is designed to emulate a full specification SoC and aims to improve performance, lower power consumption and facilitate a faster path to market for foundry customers.

The foundry firm says its 20-nm process technology will "improve performance by up to 35% and nearly halve power consumption" compared to the 28-nm process. We should start to see devices based on GloFo’s 28-nm process in action next year.

GlobalFoundries has announced another milestone on top of that. It claims to be the first to have pushed a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 test chip to "more than 2.5GHz." Just to provide a frame of reference, Nvidia’s Tegra 3 application processor features Cortex-A9 cores, and those only run at up to 1.4GHz. Tegra 3 is based on an older, 40-nm process and tuned for power efficiency, though; I’m guessing the 2.5GHz ARM test chip is fabbed at 28 nm, and it might not have the same power requirements.

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    • TaBoVilla
    • 8 years ago

    There’s a wider issue at hand here, they have reached a technical barrier where it has become increasingly difficult (even for Intel) to continue reducing process nodes with the current toolset, in order to keep up with PR and Sales people promises.

    They ought to step back, take down a notch or two on those “awesome” product roadmaps investors fancy. Semiconductor people are among the brightest in the world, but other people continuously committing to unrealistic milestones just makes them look bad, which is really unfair.

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    20nm next year? Well, that’s a surprise, given that their 32nm is having childbirth problems many months after release and they can’t seem to get it perfect. What about 22nm? Are they gonna skip that altogether and jump the gun to 20nm? Will Piledriver or Steamroller be built on 20nm? They’d better ramp fast.

      • Draphius
      • 8 years ago

      id doubt piledriver or steamroller will be on the 20nm process. amd always seems to stay one gen behind there competitors so they can compete pricewise

        • NeelyCam
        • 8 years ago

        New process node is usually cheaper because although the process costs more, the chip area shrinks enough to make the chips cheaper. (Bulldozer being the obvious exception..)

        AMD generally stays one generation behind because their chip manufacturer is one generation behind.

      • pogsnet1
      • 8 years ago

      Yes they wont go 22nm but rather 20nm but that will likely be 2013 or 2014 for the processor x86

      We are also about to expect 28nm APU at 2012 if all goes well if not in 2013 then followed by 20nm on the following year.

        • NeelyCam
        • 8 years ago

        Any difference between 22nm and 20nm is purely marketing. Performance and density are dependent on many other things, and 20nm isn’t necessarily better than 22nm.

    • NeelyCam
    • 8 years ago

    (A mandatory comment on a process-related article:)

    [quote<]"The 20nm TQV is based on GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ next-generation 20nm platform, which is designed to improve performance by up to 35% and nearly halve power consumption when compared to 28nm technologies."[/quote<] That probably means [i<]either[/i<] up to +35% performance [i<]or[/i<] almost 50% power consumption... even then it would be exceedingly impressive, considering Intel needed tri-gate to get to +37% performance or <50% power consumption. I'm still waiting to hear a confirmation that GloFo went FD-SOI at 20nm...

      • pogsnet1
      • 8 years ago

      It goes both ways.

      • sweatshopking
      • 8 years ago

      maybe their 28nm just REALLY sucks.

      • eofpi
      • 8 years ago

      Isn’t 20nm when GF is switching to gate-last? That might account for the larger claimed improvements here.

    • Hattig
    • 8 years ago

    Let’s hope that GlobalFoundries is putting the nightmare of 32nm behind them with this 20nm process.

    As for the 28nm 2.5GHz chips, the press release the article links to says: “The 2.5GHz performance results are based on wafers running in GLOBALFOUNDRIES Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany, on the company’s 28nm high performance technology. An additional performance increase is expected on GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 28nm High Performance Plus (HPP) platform, which is the solution of choice for wired networking applications, with extremely low active power and an operating point of 0.85V.”

    So I guess the article’s final paragraph could be clarified.

      • jdaven
      • 8 years ago

      The nightmare will be the full-node 22 nm process shrink of the 32 nm full-node. With regards to half-node, we have yet to see 28 nm half-node come out of the fab so don’t get your hopes up for the 20 nm half-node just yet. A test vehicle is a lot different than shipping silicon.

        • bcronce
        • 8 years ago

        edit: NeelyCam pointed out 32nm has shipped from GloFo

        These companies are turning into Duke Nukem Forever.

        32nm next year
        32nm delayed
        32nm delayed again
        32nm delayed again
        32nm canceled
        28nm next year
        28nm delayed
        28nm delayed again
        28nm delayed again
        28nm delayed again
        20nm next year! Look how good we’re doing!

        The only chips they have on the market are still 40nm.

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          That’s TSMC. GloFo already shipped 32nm.

            • bcronce
            • 8 years ago

            ahhh yes… The bulldozer.. what was I thinking. Thanks for the fix.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Llano too 🙂

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