Semiconductor fab GlobalFoundries is growing up fast; only a year or so after being spun-off from AMD it's already hosting its own technology conference, and it chose this occasion to talk up its partnership with UK low-power chip designer ARM.
It was clear from the start that the key market for GlobalFoundries was going to be SoCs, as opposed to PC chips, and seeing as the vast majority of them run on the ARM instruction set, that was clearly the company to get close to.
Back in February, at MWC, GlobalFoundries predicted it would tape-out (an early manufacturing stage) ARM's Cortex A9 design on the 28nm process in the second half of this year. Today GlobalFoundries announced that a qualification vehicle - which will allow it to optimize its 28nm process for Cortex A9 - has indeed been taped-out.
The SoCs that you find in today's high-end smartphones are either based on ARM's Cortex A8 design or an in-house equivalent. But Cortex A8 is restricted to a single core, whereas Cortex A9 is scalable up to four cores. Most next gen SoCs, such as TI's OMAP 4 or NVIDIA's Tegra 2, are based on Cortex A9, so this is clearly where all the action is.
"This is a significant milestone on the road to high-volume 28nm manufacturing and technology leadership for next-generation products ranging from smart mobile devices to high-performance wired applications," said Mojy Chian, SVP of design enablement at GlobalFoundries.
"By working closely with ARM in the early stages of technology qualification, we will enable our customers to rapidly bring their ARM Cortex-A9 designs with ARM physical IP to production by setting a new standard for performance and power-efficiency."
"The combination of ARM's leading physical IP solutions and GlobalFoundries' proven experience in high-volume manufacturing will deliver a powerful platform for innovation," said Simon Segars, EVP and GM of ARM's physical IP division. "Our partnership will enable customers to rapidly bring high-performance, low-power ARM technology-based designs to market on 28nm HKMG technology."
GlobalFoundries has also taken this opportunity to shed some light on its 22/20nm roadmap. The technology is expected to be delivered to customers in 2013 and, once more, the 20nm half node will come in high performance and low power flavours, depending on the needs of the chip company. There's also a 22nm ‘super high performance' option.