Intel Technology and Manufacturing Day in China

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2017 - 11:33 PM |
Tagged: Intel, China, cannon lake, coffee lake, 10nm, 14nm+, 14nm++, 22FFL, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung, 22FDX

Today in China Intel is holding their Technology and Manufacturing Day. Unlike previous "IDF" events this appears to be far more centered on the manufacturing aspects of Intel's latest process nodes. During presentations Intel talked about their latest steps down the process ladder to smaller and smaller geometries all the while improving performance and power efficiency.
 
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Mark Bohr presenting at Intel Technology and Manufacturing Day in China. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
It really does not seem as though 14nm has been around as long as it has, but the first Intel products based on that node were released in the 2nd half of 2014.  Intel has since done further work on the process. Today the company talked about two other processes as well as products being made on these nodes.
 
The 10nm process has been in development for some time and we will not see products this year. Instead we will see two product cycles based on 14nm+ and 14nm++ parts. Intel did show off a wafer of 10nm Cannon Lake dies. Intel claims that their 10nm process is still around 3 years more advanced than the competition. Other foundry groups have announced and shown off 10nm parts, but overall transistor density and performance does not look to match what Intel has to offer.
 
We have often talked about the marketing names that these nodes have been given, and how often their actual specifications have not really lived up to the reality. Intel is not immune to this, but they are closer to describing these structures than the competition. Even though this gap does exist, competition is improving their products and offering compelling solutions at decent prices so that fabless semi firms can mostly keep up with Intel.
 
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Nothing like handling a 10nm Cannon Lake wafer with bare hands! (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
A new and interesting process is being offered by intel in the form of 22FFL. This is an obviously larger process node, but it is highly optimized for low power operation with far better leakage characteristics than the previous 22nm FF process that Intel used all those years ago. This is aimed at the ultra-mobile devices with speeds above 2 GHz. This seems to be a response to other low power lines like the 22FDX product from GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Intel did not mention potential RF implementations which is something of great interest from those also looking at 22FDX.
 
Perhaps the biggest news that was released today is that of Intel Custom Foundry announcing and agreement with ARM to develop and implement those CPUs on the upcoming 10nm process. This can have a potentially huge impact depending on the amount of 10nm line space that Intel is willing to sell to ARM's partners as well as what timelines they are looking at to deliver products. ARM showed off a 10nm test wafer of Cortex-A75 CPUs. The company claims that they were able to design and implement these cores using industry standard design flows (automated place and route, rather than fully custom) and achieving performance in excess of 3 GHz.
 
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Gus Yeung of ARM holding a 10nm Cortex-A75 based CPUs designed by Intel. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
Intel continues to move forward and invest a tremendous amount of money in their process technology. They have the ability to continue at this rate far beyond that of other competitors. Typically the company does a lot of the heavy lifting with the tools partners, which then trickles down to the other manufacturers. This has allowed Intel to stay so far ahead of the competition, and with the introduction of 14nm+, 14nm++, and 10nm they will keep much of that lead. Now we must wait and see what kind of clockspeed and power performance we see from these new nodes and how well the competition can react and when.

Samsung Announces 11nm LPP and 7nm LPP Processes

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: Vega, TSMC, Samsung, ryzen, Intel, euv, 8nm, 7nm, 14nm, 11nm, 10nm

Process technology is extremely complex today, and getting more and more complex by the minute.  The billions of dollars invested in each process node essentially insures that it will have to be used for years to come to get back that investment.  It not only needs to get back that investment, but provide more funds to start R&D on the next series of nodes that will come down the line.  It has only been a couple of years since the introduction of multiple 14nm processes from Intel and Samsung, as well as the 16nm node from TMSC.  We are already moving towards an introduction of 10nm parts from these manufacturers in bulk starting next year.  So have these manufacturers gotten their money worth out of their current processes?
 
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Kinam Kim, President of Samsung Electronics’ Semiconductor Business, discloses the latest process advances from his division.
 
Part of that answer somes in the form of Samsung's latest product.  Samsung is announcing the availability of a new 11nm FinFET process that looks to be a pretty extensive optimization of the company's 14nm FF.  The new process promises 15% better performance and 10% chip area reduction at the same power consumption as the older 14nm FF.  The idea here is to further improve upon their 14nm process all the while retaining the economics of it.  This process exists separately from the latest 10nm LPP which can be considered a full jump from the previous 14nm.  11nm LPP will be primarily aimed at midrange and high end products, but will not reach the full scaling and performance of the 10nm LPP product.
 
This "little steps" philosophy has been around for ages, as AMD utilized it for most of their existence when they owned their own Fabs.  Other companies have done the same by including small improvements over the lifetime of the process so that the final product is signficantly better in terms of yield, transistor switching speed, and thermal dissipation.  Samsung looks to be doing this with their 11nm process by providing all those little steps of improvement from 14nm.
 
The second part of the announcement is that Samsung has announced their 7nm process using EUV.  Samsung had previously announced their 8nm process, but it still relies upon multi-patterning immersion litho.  Samsung has been testing their 250 watt EUV source with fairly good results.  The company is quoted as to processing over 200,000 wafers since 2014 and has achieved an 80% yeild on 256 Mb SRAM.  This is somewhat impressive, but still not ready for primetime.  SRAM features highly consistent structures and is typically one of the first complex chips tested on a new process.
 
Samsung is offering orders now of its 11nm line and it will be very interesting to see who jumps on board.  I would not expect AMD to transfer their designs to 11nm, as a tremendous amount of reworking and validating are required. Instead we will see AMD going for the 10nm node with their Zen 2 based products while continuing to produce Ryzen, Vega, and Polaris at 14nm. Those that will be taking advantage of 11nm will probably be groups pushing out smaller products, especially for the midrange and high end cell phone SOCs.
 
10nm LPP is expected in early 2018, 8nm LPP in 2019, and finally Samsung hopes for 7nm to be available in 2020.
Source: Samsung

ARMing the Cloud; Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 Platform will power Microsoft Azure instances

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 8, 2017 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, OCP, microsoft, falkor, centriq 2400, azure, arm, 10nm

Last December Qualcomm announced plans to launch their Centriq 2400 series of platforms for data centres, demonstrating Apache Spark and Hadoop on Linux as well as a Java demo.  They announced a 48 Core design based on ARM v8 and fabbed with on Samsung's 10nm process, which will compete against Intel's current offerings for the server room.

MSFT Proj Olympus with Qualcomm Centriq 2400 Motherboard.jpg

Today marks the official release of the Qualcomm Falkor CPU and Centriq 2400 series of products, as well as the existence of a partnership with Microsoft which may see these products offered to Azure customers.  Microsoft has successfully configured a version of Windows Server to run on these new chips, which is rather big news for customers looking for low powered hosting solutions running a familiar OS.  The Centriq 2400 family is compliant with Microsoft's Project Olympus architecture, used by the Open Compute Project Foundation to offer standardized building blocks upon which you can design a data centre from scratch or use as an expansion plan.

microsoft-azure-logo.jpg

Enough of the background, we are here for the specifications of the new platform and what can be loaded onto a Centriq 2400.  The reference motherboard supports SOCs of up to 48 cores, with both single and dual socket designs announced.  Each SOC can support up to six channels of DDR4 in either single or dual channel configurations with a maximum of 768GB installed.  Falkor will offer 32 lanes of PCIe 3.0, eight SATA ports and a GbE ethernet port as well as USB and a standard 50Gb/s NIC.  NVMe is supported, one design offers 20 NVMe drives with a PCIe 16x slot but you can design the platform to match your requirements.  Unfortunately they did not discuss performance during their call, nor any suggested usage scenarios.  We expect to hear more about that during the 2017 Open Compute Platform US Summit, which starts today.

centriq2400.PNG

The submission of the design to Open Compute Project ensures a focus on compatibility and modularity and allows a wide variety of designs to be requested and networked together.  If you have a need for HPC performance you can request a board with an HPC GPU such as a FirePro or Tesla, or even drop in your own optimized FPGA.  Instead of opting for an impressive but expensive NVME storage solution, you can modify the design to accommodate 16 SATA HDDs for affordable storage.

centriqtypes.PNG

Qualcomm have already announced Windows 10 support on their Snapdragon, but the fact that Microsoft are internally running Windows Server on an ARM v8 based processor is much more impressive.  Intel and AMD have long held reign in the server room and have rightfully shrugged of the many times in which companies have announced ARM based servers which will offer more power efficient alternatives.  Intel have made huge advances at creating low power chips for the server room; AMD's recently announced Naples shows their intentions to hold their market share as well.

If the submission to the OPC succeeds then we may see the first mainstream ARM based servers appear on the market.  Even if the Windows Server instances remain internal to Microsoft, the Centriq series will support Red Hat, CentOS, Canonical and Ubuntu as well as both GCC and LLVM compilers. 

Qualcomm Centriq 2400 Open Compute Moterboard_topview.jpg

(click to seriously embiggen)

ARM may finally have reached the server market after all these years and it will be interesting to see how they fare.  AMD and Intel have both had to vastly reduce the power consumption of their chips and embrace a diametrically opposite design philosophy; instead of a small number of powerful chips, servers of the future will consist of arrays of less powerful chips working in tandem.  ARM has had to do the opposite, they are the uncontested rulers of low powered chips but have had to change their designs to increase the processing capabilities of their chips in order to produce an effective product for the server room.  

Could Qualcomm successful enter the server room; or will their ARMs not have the necessary reach?

Source: Qualcomm
Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

Semi-custom CPU

With the near comes a new push for performance, efficiency and feature leadership from Qualcomm and its Snapdragon line of mobile SoCs. The Snapdragon 835 was officially announced in November of last year when the partnership with Samsung on 10nm process technology was announced, but we now have the freedom to share more of the details on this new part and how it changes Qualcomm’s position in the ultra-device market. Though devices with the new 835 part won’t be on the market for several more months, with announcements likely coming at CES this year.

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Qualcomm frames the story around the Snapdragon 835 processor with what they call the “five pillars” – five different aspects of mobile processor design that they have addressed with updates and technologies. Qualcomm lists them as battery life (efficiency), immersion (performance), connectivity, and security.

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Starting where they start, on battery life and efficiency, the SD 835 has a unique focus that might surprise many. Rather than talking up the improvements in performance of the new processor cores, or the power of the new Adreno GPU, Qualcomm is firmly planted on looking at Snapdragon through the lens of battery life. Snapdragon 835 uses half of the power of Snapdragon 801.

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The company touts usage claims of 1+ day of talk time, 5+ days of music playback, 11 hours of 4K video playback, 3 hours of 4K video capture and 2+ hours of sustained VR gaming. These sound impressive, but as we must always do in this market, you must wait for consumer devices from Qualcomm partners to really measure how well this platform will do. Going through a typical power user comparison of a device built on the Snapdragon 835 to one use the 820, Qualcomm thinks it could result in 2 or more hours of additional battery life at the end of the day.

We have already discussed the new Quick Charge 4 technology, that can offer 5 hours of use with just 5 minutes of charge time.

Continue reading our preview of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC!

Podcast #426 - Intel Kaby Lake Performance, Corsair Crystal Cases, Q&A and more!

Subject: Editorial | November 23, 2016 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: Z170X-Ultra Gaming, video, snapdragon 835, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, kaby lake, Intel, gigabyte, crystal, corsair, 7th generation core, 570x, 10nm

PC Perspective Podcast #426 - 11/23/16

Join us this week as we discuss Intel Kaby Lake performance, a new Corsair Crystal 570X case, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:23:24

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:41:38 Random thoughts and Q&A!
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Lenovo Phab 2 Pro SD 652, Android 6, 6.4” QHD, 4GB, 64GB, 4050 mAh
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Qualcomm Teases Snapdragon 835, built on Samsung 10nm FinFET

Subject: Processors, Mobile | November 17, 2016 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon, Samsung, qualcomm, FinFET, 835, 10nm

Though we are still months away from shipping devices, Qualcomm has announced that it will be building its upcoming flagship Snapdragon 835 mobile SoC on Samsung’s 10nm 2nd generation FinFET process technology. Qualcomm tells us that integrating the 10nm node in 2017 will keep it “the technology leader in mobile platforms” and this makes the 835 the world's first 10nm production processor.

“Using the new 10nm process node is expected to allow our premium tier Snapdragon 835 processor to deliver greater power efficiency and increase performance while also allowing us to add a number of new capabilities that can improve the user experience of tomorrow’s mobile devices.”

Samsung announced its 10nm FinFET process technology in October of this year and it sports some impressive specifications and benefits to the Snapdragon 835 platform. Per Samsung, it offers “up to a 30% increase in area efficiency with 27% higher performance or up to 40% lower power consumption.” For Qualcomm and its partners, that means a smaller silicon footprint for innovative device designs, including thinner chassis or larger batteries (yes, please).

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Other details on the Snapdragon 835 are still pending a future reveal, but Qualcomm says that 835 is in production now and will be shipping in commercial devices in the first half of 2017. We did hear that the new 10nm chip is built on "more than 3 billion transistors" - making it an incredibly complex design!

Image_Keith Kressin Qualcomm, Ben Suh Samsung with 10nm Snapdragon 835.jpeg

Keith Kressin SVP, Product Management, Qualcomm Technologies Inc and Ben Suh, SVP, Foundry Marketing, Samsung, show off first 10nm mobile processor, Snapdragon 835, in New York at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit.

I am very curious to see how the market reacts to the release of the Snapdragon 835. We are still seeing new devices being released using the 820/821 SoCs, including Google’s own flagship Pixel phones this fall. Qualcomm wants to maintain leadership in the SoC market by innovating on both silicon and software but consumers are becoming more savvy to the actual usable benefits that new devices offer. Qualcomm promises features, performance and power benefits on SD 835 to make the case for your next upgrade.

Full press release after the break!

Source: Qualcomm

Samsung Has Announcements for 14nm, 10nm, and 7nm

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, euv, 7nm, 14nm, 10nm

As the comments usually remind us, the smallest feature size varies in interpretation from company to company, and node to node. You cannot assume how Samsung compares with Intel, GlobalFoundries, or TSMC based on the nanometer rating alone, better or worse. In fact, any specific fabrication process, when compared to another one, might be better in some ways yet worse in others.

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With all of that in mind, Samsung has announced the progress they've made with 14nm, 10nm, and 7nm fabrication processes. First, they plan to expand 14nm production with 14LPU. I haven't been able to figure out what this specific branding stands for, but I'm guessing it's something like “Low Power Ultra” given that it's an engineering name and those are usually super literal (like the other suffixes).

As for the other suffixes, Samsung begins manufacturing nodes with Low Power Early (LPE). From there, they improve upon their technique, providing higher performance and/or lower power, and call this new process Low Power Plus (LPP). LPC, which I believe stands for something like Low Power Cost, although I haven't seen this acronym officially expanded, removes a few manufacturing steps to make the end product cheaper. LPU is an extension of LPC with higher performance. Add the appropriate acronym as a suffix to the claimed smallest feature size, and you get the name of the node: xxLPX.

14LPU is still a ways out, though. Their second announcement, 10LPU, is expected to be their cost-reduction step for 10nm, which I interpret to mean they are omitting LPC from their 10nm production. You may think this is very soon, given how 10LPE has just started mass production a few weeks ago. Really, this is a quite early announcement in terms of overall 10nm production. The process design kits (PDKs) for both 14LPU and 10LPU, which are used by hardware vendors to design their integrated circuits, won't ship until 2Q17. As such, products will be a while behind that.

To close out, Samsung reiterated that 7nm is planned to use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV). They have apparently created a wafer using 7nm EUV, but images do not seem to be provided.

Development kits for 14LPU and 10LPU are expected to ship in the second quarter of 2017.

Source: Samsung

Samsung Begins Mass Production of 10nm LPE SoCs

Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, 10nm

Earlier today, Samsung announced that mass production has started for system-on-a-chip (SoC) products on their first-generation 10nm process, which is called Low Power Early (10LPE). Chips produced from this node will begin to ship in devices starting early 2017. The press release claims that, for integrated circuits manufactured under the 10LPE process, die area could decrease up to 30%, with either an increase in performance of up to 27% or a decrease in power of up to 40%.

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This is a little higher than the 10% increase in performance that AnandTech claimed in April. On the plus side, it was also expected that any design that was created for 10LPE could be migrated, pretty much without change, to the second-generation, Low Power Plus (10LPP) node. Jumping back to today's press release, Samsung claims that 10LPP will begin mass production in the second half of next year. So basically, early 10nm parts will launch in a couple of months, then a second wave will arrive the year after, using a more refined fabrication method.

Source: Samsung

GlobalFoundries Will Allegedly Skip 10nm and Jump to Developing 7nm Process Technology In House (Updated)

Subject: Processors | August 20, 2016 - 03:06 PM |
Tagged: Semiconductor, lithography, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, global foundries, euv, 7nm, 10nm

UPDATE (August 22nd, 11:11pm ET): I reached out to GlobalFoundries over the weekend for a comment and the company had this to say:

"We would like to confirm that GF is transitioning directly from 14nm to 7nm. We consider 10nm as more a half node in scaling, due to its limited performance adder over 14nm for most applications. For most customers in most of the markets, 7nm appears to be a more favorable financial equation. It offers a much larger economic benefit, as well as performance and power advantages, that in most cases balances the design cost a customer would have to spend to move to the next node.

As you stated in your article, we will be leveraging our presence at SUNY Polytechnic in Albany, the talent and know-how gained from the acquisition of IBM Microelectronics, and the world-class R&D pipeline from the IBM Research Alliance—which last year produced the industry’s first 7nm test chip with working transistors."

An unexpected bit of news popped up today via TPU that alleges GlobalFoundries is not only developing 7nm technology (expected), but that the company will skip production of the 10nm node altogether in favor of jumping straight from the 14nm FinFET technology (which it licensed from Samsung) to 7nm manufacturing based on its own in house design process.

Reportedly, the move to 7nm would offer 60% smaller chips at three times the design cost of 14nm which is to say that this would be both an expensive and impressive endeavor. Aided by Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, GlobalFoundries expects to be able to hit 7nm production sometime in 2020 with prototyping and small usage of EUV in the year or so leading up to it. The in house process tech is likely thanks to the research being done at the APPC (Advanced Patterning and Productivity Center) in Albany New York along with the expertise of engineers and design patents and technology (e.g. ASML NXE 3300 and 3300B EUV) purchased from IBM when it acquired IBM Microelectronics. The APPC is reportedly working simultaneously on research and development of manufacturing methods (especially EUV where extremely small wavelengths of ultraviolet light (14nm and smaller) are used to etch patterns into silicon) and supporting production of chips at GlobalFoundries' "Malta" fab in New York.

APPC in Albany NY.jpg

Advanced Patterning and Productivity Center in Albany, NY where Global Foundries, SUNY Poly, IBM Engineers, and other partners are forging a path to 7nm and beyond semiconductor manufacturing. Photo by Lori Van Buren for Times Union.

Intel's Custom Foundry Group will start pumping out ARM chips in early 2017 followed by Intel's own 10nm Cannon Lake processors in 2018 and Samsung will be offering up its own 10nm node as soon as next year. Meanwhile, TSMC has reportedly already tapped out 10nm wafers and will being prodction in late 2016/early 2017 and claims that it will hit 5nm by 2020. With its rivals all expecting production of 10nm chips as soon as Q1 2017, GlobalFoundries will be at a distinct disadvantage for a few years and will have only its 14nm FinFET (from Samsung) and possibly its own 14nm tech to offer until it gets the 7nm production up and running (hopefully!).

Previously, GlobalFoundries has stated that:

“GLOBALFOUNDRIES is committed to an aggressive research roadmap that continually pushes the limits of semiconductor technology. With the recent acquisition of IBM Microelectronics, GLOBALFOUNDRIES has gained direct access to IBM’s continued investment in world-class semiconductor research and has significantly enhanced its ability to develop leading-edge technologies,” said Dr. Gary Patton, CTO and Senior Vice President of R&D at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. “Together with SUNY Poly, the new center will improve our capabilities and position us to advance our process geometries at 7nm and beyond.” 

If this news turns out to be correct, this is an interesting move and it is certainly a gamble. However, I think that it is a gamble that GlobalFoundries needs to take to be competitive. I am curious how this will affect AMD though. While I had expected AMD to stick with 14nm for awhile, especially for Zen/CPUs, will this mean that AMD will have to go to TSMC for its future GPUs  or will contract limitations (if any? I think they have a minimum amount they need to order from GlobalFoundries) mean that GPUs will remain at 14nm until GlobalFoundries can offer its own 7nm? I would guess that Vega will still be 14nm, but Navi in 2018/2019? I guess we will just have to wait and see!

Also read:

Source: TechPowerUp

Podcast #413 - NVIDIA Pascal Mobile, ARM and Intel partner on 10nm, Flash Memory Summit and more!

Subject: Editorial | August 18, 2016 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, pascal, nvidia, msi, mobile, Intel, idf, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gigabyte, FMS, Flash Memory Summit, asus, arm, 10nm

PC Perspective Podcast #413 - 08/18/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the new mobile GeForce GTX 10-series gaming notebooks, ARM and Intel partnering on 10nm, Flash Memory Summit and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Sebastian Peak, Josh Walrath and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:29:39
  1. Week in Review:
  2. This episode of PC Perspective is brought to you by Casper!! Use code “PCPER”
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:42:05 Final news from FMS 2016
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: VR Demi Moore
  5. Closing/outro