The Silicon Foundry Market Is Alive And Well

Why GlobalFoundries new 14LPP process is so important.


I attended the ARM TechCon conference in Santa Clara last week and met with the GlobalFoundries team to discuss their new 14nm finFET technology. GlobalFoundries’ 14LPP technology offering was qualified in the third quarter of 2015 and is on track for volume production in 2016. FX-14 design kits are available to customers now. 

This announcement was the culmination of an extensive body of development work by GlobalFoundries to bring the technology to market in a timely manner. 14LPE (early) was first qualified in January of 2015, with 14LPP (risk production start) in early 2H15. Multi Product Wafers (MPW) are available to those customers that need to prove out their technology before committing to a mass production start.

The technology itself offers impressive gains over 28nm bulk CMOS with up to 50% increase in performance or a 65% reduction in total power. Products run on GlobalFoundries’ 14nm FinFET process intrinsically operate at a lower power supply voltage, offering many additional options to designers.

GlobalFoundries also has assembled an impressive array of production qualified IP with a full suite of ARM processors. In addition to high speed SerDes solutions ranging from 16Gbs to 56Gbs, GlobalFoundries is offering a wide range of interface standards, as well.

All these elements are necessary for a silicon foundry to compete in the market today and GlobalFoundries has checked all the boxes in this regard. However, the most interesting part of their story is perhaps the incorporation of the technology and expertise offered through the IBM Microelectronics acquisition. This acquisition brings with it a very large amount of design expertise and internally developed IP that is now available to GlobalFoundries customers. Access to this type of design expertise is probably worth the price of admission on its own to those small companies that have a good idea but lack all the resources to see it to fruition.

All silicon foundries today are certainly aware of the opportunity presented by the numerous start-up companies that are targeting the IoT arena. GlobalFoundries is participating in the DesignStart initiative recently announced by ARM. This allows small start-ups access to the ARM Cortex M0 and other physical IP with a very low up-front license cost. This is an essential element to these companies since design resources are at a premium, especially for a market segment that is evolving as fast as the IoT segment is doing.

More than 15 foundries, including GlobalFoundries, are participants in the DesignStart program in recognition of the large opportunity the IoT market could present in the long term. What is especially interesting is that the program includes IP for 250nm all the way down to 16nm/14nm finFET processes. This indicates a wide range of solutions at multiple performance and price points are possible for IoT applications and other markets as well.

GlobalFoundries, along with many other silicon foundries, has rightly identified the essential elements that will power the market in 2016. These elements include access to cutting-edge processes along with plentiful IP types, which creates a rich roadmap of possibilities for customers of all types and sizes. It appears all foundries are on board and indicates the silicon foundry market is alive and well as we close out 2015 and get ready to enter 2016.

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