ASIC: A Glance at the Past, and a View into the Future

Application Specific Integrated Circuits’ (ASICs) legacy at IBM dates all the way back to 1981, when the company needed specialized and high-volume circuits for their own machines. The company started an in-house ASIC design team, where engineers created devices that were peripheral, but essential to the full-custom microprocessors they were shipping to customers.

These ASICs were semi-custom (gate arrays and linear arrays), fully assembled, tested and packaged devices that could help differentiate a product without the high cost and time requirements of fully-custom devices. In those early days, IBM offered three types of chip-manufacturing services and products: standard ICs; full-custom, cell-based ASICs; silicon foundry services; and semi-custom, which filled the gap between its traditional cell-based ASICs and standard IC products. Using their ASICs, the company produced devices such as memory controllers, bus controllers, graphics chips, digital switches and routers and other functions.

ASIC 1

In 1993, IBM made a significant step forward and entered the merchant ASIC market. Within 18 months, the company became the global market leader due to the high performance of enterprise-level server, storage and networking products. IBM held that top rank for five years until the company withdrew from the enterprise and server market. To this day, the company continues to be the top ASIC vendor in the wired communications segment.

ASIC 2

The acquisition of IBM’s microelectronics business enables the expansion of GLOBALFOUNDRIES corporate portfolio into the ASIC business. This expansion is exciting and meaningful for our company, partners and customers for a number of reasons. By adding this new business aspect, GLOBALFOUNDRIES has gained a new set of capabilities in the form of the richest portfolio of best-in-class intellectual property (IP) for wired and wireless infrastructure application in the foundry industry. This addition has added expertise in 3D packaging that soundly rounds out the GLOBALFOUNDRIES native portfolio of 2.5D packaging. Additionally, this expansion has enabled us to gain a team of design experts who have decades of experience, dating back to IBM’s foundation with ASIC technology.

Looking ahead, ASIC manufacturing will be spread across our three Northeast, United States fabs:

  • Fab 9 in Burlington, Vermont – 200mm, 90nm and above
  • Fab 10 in East Fishkill, New York – 300mm, 32nm and above
  • Fab 8 in Malta, New York for 300mm, 14nm and below

Compared to other technologies, the ASIC business has a significantly different customer engagement model, with end-to-end touchpoints from concept to the final delivery of a differentiated product. We will incorporate this technology into our work with current wafer customers and introduce our core wafer business to our ASIC customers. We are thrilled to be integrating ASIC into our technology portfolio and look to a bright future with current and future partners.