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IBM Says Alliance Set for 28nm

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 13 comments

On the heels of Globalfoundries' 28nm hint yesterday, IBM is announcing that its entire bulk processing alliance is ready to manufacture using 28nm.

Recently Globalfoundries hinted to the upcoming 28nm processing in an interview with X-bit Labs, briefly mentioning the process while talking about competing for AMD's graphics business. Although partially owned by AMD, the company is actually one of many manufactures in IBM's Bulk Process Alliance; Chartered Semiconductor, Samsung Electronics, ST Microelectronics, and Infineon Technologies are also part of the Alliance. However, prior to the interview, manufacturers--or rather early access clients--received hands-on access to a 28nm low-power technology evaluation kit back in December 2008. Then, in March, the kit was made available to the general marketplace. With that said, it's really been no secret that 28nm processing would arrive in the near future.

However, early this morning, IBM officially announced that the Alliance companies are jointly developing the 28nm, high-k metal gate (HKMG), low-power bulk complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) process technology. While that description may seem rather long-winded, the wait for the actual technology will be even longer, as IBM said that "early risk" production for 28nm is slated for Q2 2010. IBM also said that when the time comes, current clients using the 32nm technology will be able to migrate to 28nm without having to completely overhaul the design.

"Clients can begin their designs today in leadership 32nm HKMG technology and then transition to 28nm technology for density and power advantages, without the need for a major redesign," IBM said. "By assuring a path from 32nm to 28nm technology, this migration methodology offers clients lower risk, reduced cost and faster time-to-market."

But why is 28nm such a big deal? As stated by IBM, the low-power 28nm technology platform can provide a 40 percent performance improvement when compared to the larger 45nm chip, and more than 20 percent reduction in power. Additionally, the HKMG technology--allowing for one of the industry's smallest SRAM cells at 0.120 square microns--offers favorable (power) leakage characteristics, stability, and low minimum voltage, providing an optimized battery life for mobile products.

"Through this collaboration, IBM and its alliance partners are helping to accelerate development of next-generation technology to achieve high-performance, energy-efficient chips at the 28nm process level, maintaining our focus on technology leadership for our clients and partners," said Gary Patton, vice president for IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center on behalf of the technology alliance.

Other members of the alliance added their comments this morning as well, all boasting the new 28nm process. Jorgen Lantto, chief technology officer of ST-Ericsson, said that the process will make a huge impact in the mobile industry. "Leaders in the mobile industry can utilize 28nm low-power technology to meet the increasingly aggressive demands for performance and improved battery life," he said.

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  • 1 Hide
    hellwig , April 16, 2009 8:13 PM
    High-k? I guess Intel doesn't own that, good.
  • 0 Hide
    neon neophyte , April 16, 2009 8:50 PM
    nvidia better pick up its game.
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , April 16, 2009 9:51 PM
    IBM usually likes to share its patents or broker deals for them as long as Apple is not involved. It helps solidify their dominance.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , April 16, 2009 11:30 PM
    Well, Tom's bought the typical IBM bait and switch... "s stated by IBM, the low-power 28nm technology platform can provide a 40 percent performance improvement when compared to the larger 45nm chip, and more than 20 percent reduction in power"

    Notice they are comparing 28nm to 45nm... but no mention of 32nm which is also "supposed" to be ~ 40% better. The 28nm is just about shrinking optically - you'll notice no performance comparison BETWEEN 32nm and 28nm, because some folks might say why bother when you consider the cost of masks and qualification time. IBM pulled this same crap on 65nm when they were comparing the process to unstrained devices claiming huge increases and yet when it was compared to 90nm... no so much....

    If folks do the products at 32nm, it will be a hill to climb to convince them to move to 28nm.... Perhaps IBM is trying to convince folks to jump to 28nm from 45nm, but then why bother with 32nm? Again when IBM talks about 32nm to 28nm they talk about it being "easy", but no mention of the performance jump (which will be minimal) in that case. IBM doesn't understand that if you are not making high volumes of parts, it really doesn't make economic sense to do a migration of a half node.
  • 0 Hide
    tweak13 , April 17, 2009 6:13 PM
    woolovertheeyesWell, Tom's bought the typical IBM bait and switch... "s stated by IBM, the low-power 28nm technology platform can provide a 40 percent performance improvement when compared to the larger 45nm chip, and more than 20 percent reduction in power"Notice they are comparing 28nm to 45nm... but no mention of 32nm which is also "supposed" to be ~ 40% better. The 28nm is just about shrinking optically - you'll notice no performance comparison BETWEEN 32nm and 28nm, because some folks might say why bother when you consider the cost of masks and qualification time. IBM pulled this same crap on 65nm when they were comparing the process to unstrained devices claiming huge increases and yet when it was compared to 90nm... no so much....If folks do the products at 32nm, it will be a hill to climb to convince them to move to 28nm.... Perhaps IBM is trying to convince folks to jump to 28nm from 45nm, but then why bother with 32nm? Again when IBM talks about 32nm to 28nm they talk about it being "easy", but no mention of the performance jump (which will be minimal) in that case. IBM doesn't understand that if you are not making high volumes of parts, it really doesn't make economic sense to do a migration of a half node.



    Well put my friend...very well put.
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , April 17, 2009 7:02 PM
    Half node between 32nn and 22nm. while it mostly isn't used for increased performance the lower power requirements will be great for mobile devices. AMD's graphics are designed around the half node so good news for them and the ATI team.
    With the multi core race this could be used as a half increase in cores from 4 to 6. Generally tho it takes full node just for increase performance on the CPU side so maybe just wishful thinking.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 17, 2009 8:15 PM
    Could it be because we're approaching the theoretical minumum, that the half-nodes are seeming a bit smaller than they used to? If this were the difference of 3200nm to 2800nm, we'd be high-fiving IBM for shaving a whopping 400nm off the transistor size.
  • -1 Hide
    Upendra09 , April 19, 2009 3:30 PM
    Looks like a scheme from IBM to make people buy their products. They are mainly targeting the computer noobs in the world.

    Excuse this noob of a question but what is nm (nanometer?)? and what's a node?
  • 0 Hide
    mrcheesle , April 19, 2009 11:12 PM
    Upendra09Looks like a scheme from IBM to make people buy their products. They are mainly targeting the computer noobs in the world. Excuse this noob of a question but what is nm (nanometer?)? and what's a node?

    I hope you're kidding...
  • 0 Hide
    smalltime0 , April 20, 2009 11:16 AM
    elbertHalf node between 32nn and 22nm. while it mostly isn't used for increased performance the lower power requirements will be great for mobile devices. AMD's graphics are designed around the half node so good news for them and the ATI team. With the multi core race this could be used as a half increase in cores from 4 to 6. Generally tho it takes full node just for increase performance on the CPU side so maybe just wishful thinking.

    Dont forget its also cheaper materials wise as more chips can be made per wafer... suppose there is the higher failure rate...
  • 0 Hide
    Upendra09 , April 20, 2009 5:01 PM
    mr.cHeesle,

    i am not hjoking, I aknowledge the fact that it is a pretty simple question but it is one of the most often things i hear and i just want to know. I do know a good enough amount on computers but not on the engineering part of it. So please answer the question if u have an answer.
  • 0 Hide
    smalltime0 , April 21, 2009 7:32 AM
    Upendra09Looks like a scheme from IBM to make people buy their products. They are mainly targeting the computer noobs in the world. Excuse this noob of a question but what is nm (nanometer?)? and what's a node?

    if your being serious a nm is a nanomater, a one time ten to the power of minus nine of a full meter (i.e. x10^-9 or /10^9 of a metre also one billionth of a metre) if you only know imperial suck...

    I know what a node is, its a region where there is no change in potential (i.e. the stationary points on a wave and the like), but I dont know how it fits in with the term half-nopde in circuttry)

  • 0 Hide
    skine , April 29, 2009 12:09 AM
    Upendra09mr.cHeesle,i am not hjoking, I aknowledge the fact that it is a pretty simple question but it is one of the most often things i hear and i just want to know. I do know a good enough amount on computers but not on the engineering part of it. So please answer the question if u have an answer.

    I know it's a full week later, but I had to respond.

    Upendra, you're connected to the greatest resource and venue for the sharing of information in the history of mankind. Content exists on a multitude of topics, most of it free of charge; sites including Wikipedia.org.

    The internet is a wonderful resource. Make use of it!