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GlobalFoundries Continues To Push Industry Forward

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: General
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Chartered Semi and Closing Thoughts

Chartered Semi

Recently ATIC, the parent company of GlobalFoundries, announced a
bid to purchase the foundry company Chartered Semiconductor, and all
signs are pointing to a successful completion of this acquisition in
the near future.  Assuming that GlobalFoundries and Chartered Semi will
in some fashion be merged together into one foundry (it only makes
sense), this offers up some incredible benefits for the company as
whole.

First, Chartered has customers, lots of them, while GF only has one
to date. Once the merger is complete GF will essentially have dozens of
customers and moving them between the current technology found at
Chartered and the higher tech options at GlobalFoundries Fab 1 and Fab
2 should be a simple undertaking.  Customers will like the ability to
combine orders for low wattages 130nm chips with high performance 28nm
wafers to a single customer. 



No.  Words.  Needed.  Nerd alert.

For the GF team the Chartered fabs offer up yet another opportunity
for “re-use” of the company’s expensive R&D.  Technologies that are
proven to be successful and profitable can then be slowly siphoned down
to the less advanced fabrication plants that Chartered owns – I could
even envision a physical re-use of manufacturing tools – like a $2
million version of hand-me-downs. 

Immediate benefits will include the ability to offer process
technologies higher than 65nm to customers that GF would not otherwise
have been able to do.  To put a fine point on it: this combined GF will
be able to offer just about every type of chip technology to just about
anyone.

The Future of GlobalFoundries

While we are still in the early stages of GF as a non-exclusive
foundry, the future is looking pretty solid for them.  It will take
about 12 months from the official signing of ST Micro (GF’s first
non-AMD customer) before product will be produced and put to market and
the same can be said for the first of the ARM licensee’s (which have
yet to be announced).  The high performance ARM Cortex A9 processors
will be built on the 28nm High-K metal gate offering from GF and the
design infrastructure should be ready for it by the second half of
2010.  I will be curious to see if this CPU is made anywhere else
(since it is licensed by ARM’s customers, they will have that option of
course) so we can get a performance comparison directly between GF and
TSMC. 

Another interesting note made by GF’s team last week was they were
“not interested in owning IP” but only wanted to build it.  This is
obviously a jab at Intel who only recently decided to start offering
some of its Atom core IP for production at TSMC for third-parties (a
revolutionary move from Intel though) yet will still of course produce
the same architecture for themselves at their own facilities.  The
insinuation here is that Intel will definitely be able to product the
Atom IP-based CPUs better than any other fab facility and any customer
that chooses to use TSMC for a similar CPU would be at a huge
disadvantage in terms of both power and performance.  GlobalFoundries
wants nothing to do with these kinds of conflicts of interest it would
seem.

GlobalFoundries still has a long way to go to prove themselves to
be a competitor to TSMC in the real world; right now we are only basing
our opinions on a single announced customer and no products available
in the market other than AMD processors.  Even so, it is hard to deny
that many fab-less companies will find the goods that GF is offering
very attractive – including ATI and NVIDIA – and because of that the
foundry world is already in turmoil.  For customers, both of the
corporate and consumer variety, the additional competition can only be
good as it promotes the R&D and technological advancement we love. 
How different would the 40nm generation of GPUs have been with GF
around a couple of years earlier?  It’s hard to say for sure but I like
to think these types of product shortages would be a non issue at the
very least. 

Just one of many things to look forward to with GlobalFoundries in the picture.

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