Monday IBM announced a partnership with UK chip developer ARM to develop 14-nm chip processing technology. The news confirms the continuation of an alliance between both parties that launched back in 2008 with an overall goal to refine SoC density, routability, manufacturability, power consumption and performance.
For the uninitiated, the idea is to build smaller, faster chip designs that provide better power management, resulting in longer battery life and better multimedia support than the current crop of ARM-based chips. With the help of ARM's design team, IBM will take ARM's intellectual property (IP) and cram it into IBM's miniscule manufacturing processes.
"ARM’s Cortex processors have become the leadership platform for the majority of smart phones and many other emerging mobile devices," said Michael Cadigan, general manager, IBM Microelectronics. "We plan to continue working closely with ARM and our foundry customers to speed the momentum of ARM technology by delivering highly advanced, low-power semiconductor technology for a variety of new communications and computing devices."
Through the previous ARM/IBM collaboration on the 32-nm and 28-nm, ARM has already delivered eleven test chips that provide concrete research structures and early silicon validation. However, using a 14-nm manufacturing process is quite a drop when compared to ARM's current crop of Cortex processors used in Nvidia's Tegra 2 and Samsung's Hummingbird chips, both of which are using 45-nm technology.
"IBM has a proven track record of delivering the core research and development that is relied upon by major semiconductor vendors worldwide for their advanced semiconductor devices. Their leadership of the ISDA alliance, which features a diverse set of top-tier companies as members, is growing in importance as consolidation trends in the semiconductor manufacturing industry continue," said Simon Segars, EVP and general manager, ARM physical IP division. "This agreement will ensure we are able to deliver highly tuned ARM Artisan Physical IP solutions on advanced ISDA process technologies to meet the early time-to-market our customers demand."
With the 32-nm and 28-nm samples currently out in the field for testing, it's uncertain when we'll see the first samples of the 14-nm process in action. Both ARM and IBM did not offer a projected "availability" date, so stay tuned.