Intel has hired Suk Lee, a TSMC veteran, to lead its newly established Ecosystem Technology Office. Suk Lee will be responsible for expanding the design technology ecosystem at the Intel Foundry Services division by bringing in additional partners. Ecosystem development is crucial for the long-term success of IFS, Intel's contract chip production business.
Intel currently has its IFS Accelerator program that provides chip designers validated EDA tools optimized for its manufacturing nodes, process-specific silicon-verified IP portfolio, and design service partners. But the IFS Accelerator alliance only included 17 members as of February 2022, so Suk Lee will have to improve it.
At TSMC, Mr. Lee was vice president of design infrastructure management division. He was responsible for establishing and developing the company's Open Innovation Platform (OIP), the ecosystem of companies enabling the development of chips to be made by TSMC. The OIP design technology ecosystem includes a variety of participants that offer electronic design automation (EDA) tools, IP blocks, design services (front-end and back-end), packaging services, and logistics services. In fact, TSMC's OIP helped numerous chip design startups to become well-known fabless chip suppliers (think Bitmain, Graphcore, and several other developers of chips for emerging applications).
When Intel established its IFS contract chipmaking business unit last year, it did not really have a lot to offer to potential clients.
Intel's manufacturing technologies have always been developed with its own products in mind. While Intel decoupled nodes and CPU development to ensure timely product launches, its fabrication processes were still primarily aimed at particular designs (e.g., CPU cores). Many Intel nodes are still CPU-specific, so using them for mobile system-on-chips (SoCs) may not make much sense from a cost and power perspective. Developers of Intel processors have always used proprietary EDA tools with a flow, meaning that a third-party company would have to adopt them (an expensive process) in a bid to work with IFS. Also, Intel did not have any experience with the foundry business or enough internal people to run it.
For over a year, Intel has been working diligently to make IFS work. It hired many new people and even acquired Tower Semiconductor to obtain more talent, a set of clients, and mature/specialty process technologies. Poaching a high-ranking TSMC executive is a landmark event and is another example of how serious Intel is about its contract manufacturing business.
Before joining TSCM in 2009, Suk Lee worked at Synopsys, Cadence, and Texas Instruments.
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Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.