The Mobile Revolution: Taking it to the Next Level

By Srinivas Nori

Today our friends at ARM announced the launch of their newest processor targeted at the rapidly growing market for mid-range mobile devices. The ARM Cortex-A12 processor is expected to offer a significant performance uplift and direct upgrade path from the highly successful Cortex-A9 processor, while matching the energy-efficiency of its predecessor.

Most of the attention these days goes to the latest and greatest high-end superphones and tablets—and of course ARM has processors to serve this important segment—but the market for entry-level and mid-range smartphones is where the real growth is expected to occur in the coming years. For example, a recent report by ABI research projected that shipments of sub-$250 smartphones will grow from 259 million units in 2013 to 788 million units in 2018, at which point they will make up nearly half (46%) of the global smartphone market.

What do consumers want in an entry-level smartphone? They expect similar levels of performance and battery life as enabled by application processors for high-end smartphones, but in a more cost-effective system. Delivering this functionality is no small challenge, and it requires a tight partnership between SoC design and process technology to optimize performance, power, and cost.

Timeline of GLOBALFOUNDRIES and ARM’s relationship

We have been collaborating for years to optimize ARM processors for GLOBALFOUNDRIES leading-edge process technology. Today, in conjunction with the launch of the Cortex-A12 processor, we announced new power, performance and cost optimized POP™ IP technology offerings for the ARM Cortex-A12 and ARM Cortex-A7 processors for our 28nm-SLP High-K Metal Gate (HKMG) process technology. You can read more here about this latest milestone in our multi-year collaboration with ARM. The upshot is that this combination of ARM’s processor IP and our leading-edge process technology will enable a new level of system performance and power efficiency with the optimum economics necessary to serve the market for mid-range mobile devices. GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 28nm-SLP process technology and associated ARM POP IP for the Cortex-A12 processor enables up to 70 percent higher performance (measured single-thread performance) and up to 2x better power efficiency in comparison to a Cortex-A9 processor using 40nm process technology. Designers can achieve even higher performance by trading off for lower power efficiency, depending on their application needs.

But of course the technology industry continues its relentless march forward, and we have no plans to stop there. We are already collaborating to optimize ARM processor IP for our next-generation 14nm-XM technology. Our 14 nm-XM offering is based on a modular technology architecture that uses a 14nm FinFET device combined with elements of GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ proven 20 nm-LPM process, which will give SoC designers the benefits of FinFET technology with reduced risk and time-to-market. The XM stands for “eXtreme Mobility,” and it is truly optimized for mobile SoC designs.

14XM Dual-Core Cortex-A9 PPA Proof Point. Similar results are expected for Cortex-A12

Back in February at the Common Platform Technology Forum, we announced results from the industry’s first implementation of a dual-core ARM® Cortex™-A9 processor using FinFET transistors. We found the following results for a Cortex-A9 processor implemented on 14nm-XM technology. Similar results are expected for Cortex-A12 processor implementations.

Here are the technical details:

  • High-performance, energy-efficient ARM processors implemented on 28nm-SLP typically use 12-track libraries. However at 14nm-XM FinFET technology, much higher performance and more energy-efficient ARM processors can be implemented using 9-track libraries resulting in further die-size reductions.
  • At constant power, the frequency achieved with 14nm-XM technology based implementation (using 9-track libraries) is expected to be 61% faster than the frequency achieved with 28nm-SLP technology based implementation (using 12-track libraries).
  • At constant frequency, the power consumed by 14nm-XM technology based implementation is expected to be 62% lower than the power consumed by 28nm-SLP technology based implementation.
  • The performance-power efficiency of 14nm-XM technology based implementation (expressed as DMIPs/milliwatts) is anticipated to be more than twice that of the 28nm-SLP technology based implementation, while using half the silicon area.

The mobile revolution has only just begun. We are excited to see where this dynamic industry will go next, and you can be sure we will continue collaborating with innovative partners like ARM to bring the next generation of connected devices to life.

Srinivas Nori is director, SoC innovation at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. In this role Srinivas owns the GLOBALFOUNDRIES strategy and realization for ARM ecosystem based solutions. Srinivas also oversees the exploration, identification, evaluation and collaborative offering of innovative SoC solutions.

Common Technology, Uncommon Solutions

common platformBy Mike Noonen

Collaboration has become a well-worn buzzword in our industry in recent years, and for good reason. The scale and complexity of the challenges we collectively face can only be addressed by working together across the entire semiconductor ecosystem. But while many companies are just giving lip service to the concept of collaboration, it has been a part of our DNA at GLOBALFOUNDRIES since our inception.

One of our most important partnerships is in the form of the Common Platform alliance, a groundbreaking collaboration with IBM and Samsung—two of the world’s foremost technology companies—to address the needs of semiconductor manufacturing by providing access to leading-edge CMOS process technologies and extensive enablement support and services. Together we are continuing to redefine the landscape of the semiconductor industry, and the fruits of this partnership will be on display next week at the 2013 Common Platform Technology Forum, which will be held on Tuesday, February 5 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The theme of this year’s forum is “Real Collaboration = Big Business.” While we will still be providing a deep look into the underlying technologies offered by the alliance, we also want to demonstrate the impressive business momentum that’s been achieved as a byproduct of this collaboration. 2012 was a particularly strong year, with members of the Common Platform seeing significant growth and taking over both the #2 and #3 spots in the worldwide foundry rankings. Research firm IC Insights recently released its projections for the top 20 leading semiconductor suppliers in 2012, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES jumped six spots to break into the top 20 for the first time. IC Insights projected our 2012 revenue to grow 31% over 2011, which would make us the fastest growing semiconductor company in the world. Similarly, IC Insights’ 2012 foundry rankings saw Samsung make a rapid rise to #3 in the foundry, with a near doubling of foundry revenue for two years in a row.

The forum also will showcase the latest technological advances being delivered to the world’s leading electronics companies. Attendees will see and hear firsthand how the combined expertise of our partners is addressing the most demanding IC design and manufacturing challenges. Our collaborative research and innovative technology development have resulted in an accelerated roadmap and rapid customer adoption, and we’ll touch upon these key highlights:

  • Leading-edge process technologies at 32/28-, 20-, 14-nanometer, and beyond
  • Advanced innovations such as FinFet, design & technology co-optimization, and double patterning
  • A peek into the future of next-generation device innovations being researched: silicon nanowires, carbon nanotubes, and 3D device structures
  • A showcase of our ecosystem partners and Common Platform design, enablement, and implementation offerings in our Partner Pavilion

During the morning session, attendees will have the opportunity to hear keynotes from senior leaders at IBM, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, as well as a special keynote from Dr. Dipesh Patel, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Physical IP Division at ARM. Dr. Patel will talk about the importance of “partnering for innovation to drive diversity.” Mobile computing is fueling the market demand for diversity, innovation, and expansion of the semiconductor industry, but the challenges being faced by system and SoC designers to meet these requirements in terms of performance, power efficiency, and time-to-market continue to grow in light of advanced manufacturing technologies. Dr. Patel will discuss the importance of a strong ecosystem to deliver the right product on time for commercial success, and why “Real Collaboration” on advanced process technology is a necessary and critical ingredient to address these challenges.

If you aren’t able to attend Tuesday’s event in person, please consider tuning in online via the live webcast, which will also be archived after the event. Details can be found at this link:

Mike Noonen is Executive Vice President, Worldwide Marketing and Sales, for GLOBALFOUNDRIES. In this role, he is responsible for global customer relationships as well as all marketing, sales, customer engineering and quality functions.

“Layer Cakes” and Mobile Devices – Yes, There’s a Connection

By Dr. John Heinlein

There’s no denying the pervasiveness of mobile devices and mobile communications technologies. These applications are obviously changing how we communicate and share information, but also increasingly how we do business.  And consumers keep expecting more from their mobile devices.  Today, the performance and capability in high-end smartphones and certainly tablet computers are getting on a par with notebook computers. Consumers who previously didn’t know or care about technical specifications are being barraged with milliwatts, gigahertz, and nanometers.  Form factors of devices are becoming more and more critical to differentiating a device, where new devices are measured in millimeters and grams compared to prior generations.  And of course, there is the pervasive need for more battery life.  The irony is that making devices smaller and thinner means less volume (and mass) for the lithium ion-based chemical batteries that are today’s standard energy carrier. Consumers still expect their devices to do more and also last longer when running, as well as when they are on stand-by.

These increasing expectations for mobile present opportunities as well as technical challenges that we in the semiconductor industry must address.

My wife will attest that I have an insatiable sweet tooth, and so it’s not surprising that I equate this problem with a layer cake, featuring many layers (chocolate, thank you very much).  Like a well-formed layer cake, the problem of delivering leading, next-generation mobile devices is not solved through any one component or technology. It takes a solution with all the layers of the stack working together.

At the highest level, the ARM Connected Community features over 970 partners who deliver value-added capabilities to the ARM partnership.  These providers span applications, middleware, tools, IP blocks, design services, and a whole host of other capabilities, and the breadth of the ecosystem supports the richness of capabilities that enables the mobile devices we love.

ARM itself focuses our efforts on a range of technologies that are important to the middle layers of the cake.  ARM delivers our industry-leading, energy-efficient Cortex™ processors and Mali™ graphics processors, and we continue to lead the way with continued innovation.  We recently rolled out our unique big.LITTLE technology, which gives the best of both worlds of high performance and energy efficiency.  We provide CoreLink™ system IP that connects the system together and increases performance and capabilities for sharing information across devices.  And finally we deliver Artisan® physical IP that helps designers implement these designs for manufacturing.

The lowest level of the cake involves realizing these conceptual designs into actual silicon chips that power the broad array of mobile devices. This job falls to semiconductor foundries like GLOBALFOUNDRIES, which has partnered with ARM for many years on mobile innovation. The foundry ecosystem provides a proven manufacturing solution for fabless companies, enabling the amazing growth and diversity of devices in the marketplace today.  Through this solution, the industry is delivering high-volume 28nm solutions in the market place and driving rapidly towards tapeouts of 20nm devices next year.  GLOBALFOUNDRIES, for its part, is investing heavily in its 20nm-LPM process technology, which delivers a fully scaled metallization compared to the 28nm node.  While often the focus in the media is on transistor performance, scaling the metal is critically important as well, as it drives area improvements, cost reduction and power reduction.

With GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ recent announcement of its 14nm-XM technology, the company is going beyond the 20nm node and looking to the future, and I for one think its approach is pragmatic.  It’s critical that the industry continue the pace of innovation and deliver the next wave of transistor capabilities for production in the 2014 time frame.  The growing consensus is that devices beyond 20nm will be based on a FinFET transistor, a 3D device where the current flow can be more effectively controlled using a gate on both sides of the conducting channel.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES has invested in R&D on FinFET devices for years now and it intends to roll out its FinFET-based 14nm-XM (for “eXtreme Mobility”) technology in 2013, targeting production volume in 2014.  This process technology is projected to provide significant scaling and improvement in energy-efficiency compared to previous nodes, and has the potential to extend the kinds of scaling that we have enjoyed from Moore’s Law for so many years. Given the complexity of rolling out a new device technology, the approach leverages the metal solution from 20nm-LPM. This reduces one of the major risk factors in rolling out a new technology, since metal scaling is also a key challenge for manufacturability.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES has also committed to collaborating with ARM to jointly optimize this process technology specifically for next-generation ARM processors and graphics for the mobile market. This joint optimization is delivered in part through the ARM POP™ IP product line for chip optimization and risk reduction, is a key element in assuring customers get to market quickly with new designs.  By delivering POP IP for GLOBALFOUNDRIES 20nm-LPM and 14nm-XM technologies, we can assure the pace of innovation continues into the future.

We are excited that the foundry industry is responding with aggressive technologies that will help drive the next generation of manufacturing and look forward to the exciting new products that this technology will enable.

Dr. John Heinlein is vice president of marketing for the Physical IP Division at ARM

Architecting Advanced Technologies: Not All FinFETs are Created Equal

By Gregg Bartlett

The explosion of popularity in mobile computing has sent shockwaves through the entire semiconductor ecosystem. Gartner researchers predict that smartphone shipments will jump from 178 million in 2009 to more than 800 million in 2013. And it’s not just the increasing number of smartphones that is changing the landscape, but it’s also the way people are using them. According to a recent study by KPCB, the average smartphone user is now spending approximately one hour per day—nearly 60% of the time on their device—on activities other than telephony and email, such as web browsing, map software, games, and social networking.

Of course this appetite for computation-intensive tasks is driving demand for more powerful processors, but battery Iife still remains a top priority, and battery technology has not kept up the pace with the increasing demand of smart mobile computing. This puts the responsibility for innovation squarely on the shoulders of Technology Architects and SoC designers, who have been forced to completely rethink their approach to delivering end-product value with each new technology generation.

At GLOBALFOUNDRIES, we saw the industry need for a new approach to technology definition to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of the market. As we got to 20nm and beyond, we saw a major shift: for the first time in the history of our industry, mobile SoCs are beginning to drive leading-edge process technology instead of discrete CPUs and GPUs. With this change in the market, we had to look at a different set of metrics to determine the value proposition of each new technology node. For example, the “performance at all costs” mentality that drove much of the innovation in recent years will not work in this brave new world. Neither will a myopic focus on just making better and more transistors to squeeze onto a piece of silicon.

Mobile SoCs require a delicate balance between performance and power consumption, while minimizing both die size and cost. At the same time, technologies must be architected for optimum manufacturability and ease of design, to ensure the critical value of Advanced Technology elements are reflected in the SoC Product Value, without getting lost in translation. Additionally, consideration needs to be given to SoC-level concerns beyond the transistor architecture, such as overall system-level performance and specific mobile applications needs.

The transition from 20nm to 14nm represents an important inflection point, and at GLOBALFOUNDRIES we have introduced a new technology that takes full advantage of the latest advances in device architecture while keeping the bigger SoC product-level picture in view. With our new 14nm-XM offering, we have accelerated our leading-edge roadmap to deliver a technology optimized for the fast-growing smart mobile computing market. 14nm-XM will give customers the performance and power benefits of three-dimensional “FinFET” transistors with less risk and a faster time-to-market, helping the fabless ecosystem maintain its leadership in mobility while enabling a new generation of smart mobile devices. The XM stands for “eXtreme Mobility,” and it is a cost-effective and power-optimized architecture that is ideally suited for mobile SoC designs, providing a whole product solution from the transistor all the way up to the system level.

Our 14nm-XM offering is based on a modular technology architecture that uses a 14nm FinFET device combined with elements of our 20nm-LPM process, which is well on its way to production. It leverages the proven Middle of Line (MOL) from 20nm-LPM with density and cost optimized design rules to enable 8T standard cells. Our 80nm single-patterned Back End of Line (BEOL) capability combined with high density 64nm 1X layer offers unique cost advantage and competes with industry-leading 14nm technology. Combine this with our unique “fin-friendly” layout rules for faster porting of existing design IP, and 14nm-XM is able to leverage the maturity of the 20nm-LPM technology to give SoC designers a smooth transition to FinFETs on an accelerated schedule.

Another critical aspect of delivering a fully SoC-optimized solution is the ability to leverage the entire ecosystem of industry expertise, from EDA and design solutions partners to IP providers. FinFET technology comes with new considerations, especially for the SoC design community.  Our process R&D and technology architecture teams have been working closely with both internal design teams as well as design ecosystem partners to co-optimize the technology and design environments to ensure remove all design barriers on the foundry industry’s first generation FinFET technology. In fact, we recently announced a new multi-year agreement with our longstanding partner ARM to jointly deliver optimized SoC solutions for advanced ARM mobile processor designs on FinFET technologies. You can read more about this partnership in a recent blog written by my colleague Mike Noonen, our executive vice president of marketing and sales.

As Mike noted, this new industry landscape presents a number of challenges beyond the technical hurdles of shrinking transistors. I believe that re-thinking our approach to technology architecture, while driving earlier and deeper collaboration across the entire ecosystem, will allow us to overcome these challenges and continue to deliver on the promise of Moore’s Law. The ultimate goal is to enable our customers to succeed in their respective businesses. And based on input from customers and partners, 14nm-XM is well positioned to fulfill this critical objective.

Gregg Bartlett is Chief Technology Officer at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. He is responsible for the company technology strategy, research, technology partnerships and alliances, and packaging technology development. He serves as the company’s primary spokesperson on technology matters. 

Enabling Innovation on Leading Edge Technology

By Kelvin Low

It’s always great to see a customer celebrate their product success, especially when it’s developed based on a GLOBALFOUNDRIES technology.  Recently, one of our early lead partners, Adapteva, announced sampling of their 28nm 64-core Epiphany-4 microprocessor chip. This chip is designed on our 28nm-SLP technology which offers the ideal balance of low power, GHz class performance and optimum cost point. I will not detail the technical results of the chip but will share a quote by Andreas Olofsson, CEO of Adapteva, in the recent company’s press release:

“The Epiphany efficiency breakthrough will enable significant savings in total cost of ownership for high performance computing and will enable server level performance in mobile devices such as smart-phones and tablets. . . . effectively offering over 50 GHz of achievable programmable performance while consuming less than 2 Watts”

The ability to achieve this high performance point and still maintain mobile class leakage does not come by ‘magic’. I attribute the joint success to two key factors:

  1. Early collaboration between Adapteva and GLOBALFOUNDRIES.
  2. The low leakage, GHz attributes of our 28nm-SLP technology.

Early collaboration with our customers

GLOBALFOUNDRIES is transforming the foundry engagement model. While some in the industry may claim that “the foundry-fabless model is dead,” we are seeing the exact opposite! We are leading the transformation to a new model of customer-foundry relations. Early collaboration with customers in many aspects is necessary for a long-term, mutually successful relationship. To use Adapteva as an example, GLOBALFOUNDRIES engineers started engaging Adapteva’s design teams back in 2010, which is two years prior to product launch. During the initial engagement phase, both teams rigorously discussed requirements and exchanged ideas in order to meet the stringent product leakage requirements while scaling the high performance needs from the previous generation. Time-to-market was obviously a priority, and it was essential for Adapteva to work on a 28nm technology that allows fast porting of their key IP blocks (from the prior node).

Our 28nm-SLP technology was the ideal fit for Adapteva, because it offers a combination of GHz class performance and low leakage to cover the  mobile segment, as well as the critical time-to-market advantage that they need. GLOBALFOUNDRIES also works with our design ecosystem partners to enable design IPs on our 28nm platforms. These range from building blocks like standard cells, memory compilers to more complex IP blocks like USB2/3, DDR, PCI-Express and other high speed interfaces. Early access to the technology as well as design building blocks helped our customer accelerate their design cycle time.

The relationship with Adapteva is a great example of our initiative to transform the foundry business model, which we are calling the Collaborative Device Manufacturing (CDM). In my next blog post, I will talk a bit more about the second key factor that helped enable Adapteva’s success: how we built a superior low power, GHz class mobile solution in our 28nm-SLP technology.

Kelvin Low is Product Marketing Deputy Director for GLOBALFOUNDRIES, responsible to define GLOBALFOUNDRIES leading edge technology roadmaps and product solutions.  He is also an active member of the Joint Development Alliance where he is the marketing lead providing key market inputs in shaping the next technology nodes.

Breathing New Life into the Foundry-Fabless Business Model

By Mike Noonen

Early last week, GLOBALFOUNDRIES jointly announced with ARM another important milestone in our longstanding collaboration to deliver optimized SoC solutions for ARM® processor designs on GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ leading-edge process technology. We’re extending the agreement to include our 20nm planar offering, next-generation 3D FinFET transistor technology, and ARM’s Mali™ GPUs.

Our collaboration with ARM goes back many years, and its evolution parallels some of the critical developments in the larger semiconductor industry during the same timeframe. We began this work back when the 65nm node was the bleeding edge and our biggest concern was the integration of strained silicon to boost electron mobility. (Those were the days!) Of course today we face a daunting list of new challenges ranging from multiple patterning and EUV lithography to new device architectures such as high-k metal gate (HKMG) and FinFET. But the goal remains essentially the same: work together to deliver optimized designs and process technology to boost performance, reduce power consumption, and drive the value proposition of scaling for our customers.

ARM and GLOBALFOUNDRIES are collaborating to enable next-generation devices on 20nm and FinFET process technologies.

Yet this new landscape presents a number of challenges beyond the technical hurdles of shrinking transistors. Industry observers have long predicted that the fabless-foundry business model has some cracks in it. We in the foundry industry tend to dismiss such chatter as we continue to enjoy growth rates that outpace the overall semiconductor industry. But while we firmly believe the foundry model has a bright future, like all living organisms, we must continue to evolve. There are warning signs, both technical and economic, emerging in the foundry business that warrant our attention, and in fact require a re-thinking of how best to apply our resources and energy.
The solution, ironically, may be a move toward a more IDM-like model. Strategic collaboration that creates a ‘virtual IDM-like interface’ to chip design companies will help further close the gap between process teams at the manufacturing companies and design teams at the fabless companies. Collaboration – early, often and deep – is really the only practical approach given the cost and complexities involved.

The concept of the “Virtual IDM” is on full display in our partnership with ARM, perhaps most prominently in the project we launched in 2009 to optimize ARM’s Cortex™-A series processors on our 28nm technology. We worked closely together to develop a Technology Qualification Vehicle (TQV) strategy that allows us to optimize our advanced process technology for customer designs based on Cortex-A series processors. The solution is much more than a standard test chip. Each TQV is designed to emulate a full specification SoC and aims to improve performance, lower power consumption and facilitate a faster path to market for foundry customers.

This early and deep collaboration has resulted in several significant milestones, including the world’s first foundry optimized Cortex-A9 processorPOP™ IP for the Cortex-A9 processor operating at 1.6GHz on our 28nm-SLP technology, and a demonstration of more than 2GHz on our 28nm high-performance technology. This platform builds on the existing ARM Artisan® physical IP platforms for GLOBALFOUNDRIES processes at 65nm, 55nm and 28nm.

Now we are extending this collaboration to include true joint optimization for 20nm technologies and beyond, as well as a new focus on GPUs, which are becoming increasingly important in today’s smart mobile devices. The TQV strategy has already been scaled to 20nm and is an integral part of our process development, with a 20nm test chip implementation currently running through our Fab 8 in Saratoga County, N.Y.

And while we are seeing great dividends from this collaboration, the real hard work is only just beginning. We are now leveraging historical synergies from 28nm and 20nm planar technology to enable a smooth migration to next-generation, three-dimensional FinFET technology. One of the well publicized benefits of FinFET technology is its superior low-power attributes. The intrinsic capability of the 3D transistor to operate at a lower Vdd translates to longer battery life, which is heavily sought after in performance-hungry mobile computing applications. Our collaboration is focused tightly on this sweet spot in the market, where designers are looking for the optimum combination of performance, power-consumption, area, and cost. Our co-development work with ARM will enable a faster time to FinFET SoC solutions for customers using ARM’s next generation of mobile SoC IP for both CPUs and GPUs.

So clearly the foundry-fabless business model is not collapsing, but rather adapting to meet the challenges of today. Success will be a result of much closer joint development at the technology definition level, early engagement at the architectural stage, and a more integrated and cooperative ecosystem – precisely the kind of collaboration that we’re demonstrating with our valued partner ARM.

This post originally appeared on ARM’s Soc Design blog.

Mike Noonen is Executive Vice President, Worldwide Marketing and Sales, for GLOBALFOUNDRIES. In this role, he is responsible for global customer relationships as well as all marketing, sales, customer engineering and quality functions. 

Re-defining Collaboration

By Mojy Chian

The high technology industry is well known for its use – and over-use – of buzzwords and jargon that can easily be rendered meaningless as they get saturated in the marketplace. One could argue ‘collaboration’ is such an example. While the word itself may seem cliché, the reality is that what it stands for has never meant more.

The concept of collaboration – when two or more partners take on a shared objective to meet a mutually defined and beneficial goal – is no longer optional if you are in the semiconductor business. Time, cost and complexity have made the ‘go it alone’ approach obsolete.  On the manufacturing side, only a handful of companies have the wherewithal to bring next generation capacity on line because of unprecedented cost and difficulty.

As one of those few companies, GLOBALFOUNDRIES recognizes that collaboration is essential not only to being able to offer scalable, reliable and leading-edge manufacturing solutions, but also to enable our customers to take advantage of our offerings in a more cost-effective and optimized way.

For us, collaboration is part of our DNA.  And we understand that how companies work together is a constantly changing dynamic.  In fact, given the combination of technology and business factors re-shaping the semiconductor landscape today, in many ways we are helping to reinvent collaboration altogether.

We believe – and our customers confirm this – that our approach to working with companies that require a manufacturing partner, whether they are fabless, fablite or an IDM, is fundamentally different than previous generations of foundry-customer relationships.

At the heart of collaboration today is a new type of relationship that borrows from the best of both the traditional IDM and foundry models. Our relationships with customers cannot be the ‘throw-it-over-the-wall’ approach that defined previous foundry models. We must be in lock step with customers’ internal strategies to the point that we both have skin in the game. Shared investment and success are hallmarks of collaboration in the modern foundry model.

Well-respected industry analyst Handel Jones confirmed this in a recent rebuttal article in EE Times, debunking Intel’s claim that the fabless model was dying.  He acknowledged the challenges faced by fabless companies and foundries alike, and called for a similar re-thinking of the model:

To address the chasm problem areas, an IDM-type interface is required between process teams at the foundry vendors and design teams at the fabless companies…A key issue is who establishes and pays for these IDM-type disciplines? Fabless company, foundry, or both? It is likely that many of the costs and disciplines will need to be shared.

This type of IDM interface changes many aspects of the typical foundry engagement model. For advanced technology, a truly collaborative relationship can begin up to two-and-a-half years before product tape out. It starts much earlier – with exploration of design architecture, specification, and methodology – and goes much deeper, through precise process targeting and methodology optimization. The benefits can be dramatic, and in some cases there is simply no other way to complete chips of this complexity in the required time frames.

As with any process as complex as semiconductor design and manufacturing, the devil is in the details. And there is no shortage of touch points that, if not considered in a collaborative light, can be major obstacles to companies’ success.

In future posts in this space I will explore in more depth, from my vantage point of overseeing GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ design enablement efforts, key issues and approaches to enhancing efficiencies through collaboration throughout the ecosystem. These include how EDA and IP relationships must change, addressing critical requirements such as power and routability, silicon-verified design flows, DFM strategies, innovative technologies such as double patterning and HKMG, as well as some fundamentally new concepts like design-enabled manufacturing (DEM), which changes the perspective of where and how critical information is used to optimize the chip development process.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts and hearing your feedback.

Mojy Chian is senior vice president, design enablement at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. He is responsible for global design enablement, services, and solutions and is the primary technical customer interface for the company.