ARM TechCon 2013: Altera To Produce ARMv8 Chips on Intel 14nm Fabs

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2013 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: techcon, Intel, arm techcon, arm, Altera, 14nm

In February of this year Intel and Altera announced that they would be partnering to build Altera FPGAs using the upcoming Intel 14nm tri-gate process technology.  The deal was important for the industry as it marked one of the first times Intel has shared its process technology with another processor company.  Seen as the company's most valuable asset, the decision to outsource work in the Intel fabrication facilities could have drastic ramifications for Intel's computing divisions and the industry as a whole.  This seems to back up the speculation that Intel is having a hard time keeping their Fabs at anywhere near 100% utilization with only in-house designs.

Today though, news is coming out that Altera is going to be included ARM-based processing cores, specifically those based on the ARMv8 64-bit architecture.  Starting in 2014 Altera's high-end Stratix 10 FPGA that uses four ARM Cortex-A53 cores will be produced by Intel fabs.

The deal may give Intel pause about its outsourcing strategy. To date the chip giant has experimented with offering its leading-edge fab processes as foundry services to a handful of chip designers, Altera being one of its largest planned customers to date.

Altera believes that by combing the ARMv8 A53 cores and Intel's 14nm tri-gate transistors they will be able to provide FPGA performance that is "two times the core performance" of current high-end 28nm options.

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While this news might upset some people internally at Intel's architecture divisions, the news couldn't be better for ARM.  Intel is universally recognized as being the process technology leader, generally a full process node ahead of the competition from TSMC and GlobalFoundries.  I already learned yesterday that many of ARM's partners are skipping the 20nm technology from non-Intel foundries and instead are looking towards the 14/16nm FinFET transitions coming in late 2014. 

ARM has been working with essentially every major foundry in the business EXCEPT Intel and many viewed Intel's chances of taking over the mobile/tablet/phone space as dependent on its process technology advantage.  But if Intel continues to open up its facilities to the highest bidders, even if those customers are building ARM-based designs, then it could drastically improve the outlook for ARM's many partners.

UPDATE (7:57pm): After further talks with various parties there are a few clarifications that I wanted to make sure were added to our story.  First, Altera's FPGAs are primarly focused on the markets of communication, industrial, military, etc.  They are not really used as application processors and thus are not going to directly compete with Intel's processors in the phone/tablet space.  It remains to be seen if Intel will open its foundries to a directly competing product but for now this announcement regarding the upcoming Stratix 10 FPGA on Intel's 14nm tri-gate is an interesting progression.


Source: EETimes

October 29, 2013 | 09:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is not a consumer product that competes with any of Intel's consumer SKUs, but maybe Intel should consider its foundry business for ARM products, beacuse in mobile, the ARM ecosystem has a very large market share. Intel is not competing with a monolithic company against ARM, like Intel has with AMD, but it is an entire group of companies, and some of them have experience with Intel's past market practices, and Intel, even if they produce a closely competing product in the mobile arena, will not be able to convince these companies to let Intel inside, at least not all Intel for all these companies's SKUs! These companies have tasted the freedom that the ARM ecosystem provides, and these companies, some of them very large, and all of them togather have more money to spend on R&D, than even Intel can bring to bear! Apple may be investing in their own fabs in the near future, and the era of x86 being the only game in town, for every day computing needs, is coming to a rapid close! Intel has a few short years to leverage its process node lead, but the Fab business may become a very profitable business, and an importent one now that x86 in not in the majority of devices that people use for their computing needs.

P.S. It is good to see PCPer clarifying this news with an update, but there are many tech websites misrepersenting this anouncment.

October 30, 2013 | 06:50 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's intel's plan: It opens its fab in order to break other fabs. After they are broken, Intel close its fab again in order to break ARM.
Or peharps I´m being paranoid

October 30, 2013 | 03:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

In the time it would take Intel to build and certify the fabs to "Break" the competition their process technology lead would all but evaporate! Intel does not have the funds to do this, even with Intels money! Intel does not build the machines that make the chips, as there are several companies that supply the world with the machines that etch the chips, etc! The major chip making hardware supplied by these indipendent companies is sold to any one with the $$$$ to buy these devices and build the fabs, including the FINFET tech! Intel has a process lead, but not a sole lockin on the process technology! Intel wil not have in the future the sales volume that it had in the past, and to compete with the ARM based companies in the mobile device market, Intel will have to forgo the high margin pricing, which will mean that Intel will not have as much money to devote towards R&D, and the Billions and Billions of dollars, that it takes Intel to maintain its process node lead!

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November 4, 2013 | 12:42 PM - Posted by Anthony Alfidi (not verified)

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November 23, 2013 | 01:37 AM - Posted by stu14nm64bitUD (not verified)

Samsung have also invested billions in 14 nm and to justify the cost, they've had to allow other companies to use their facilities. Samsung want to design chips themselves, I would suggest buying AMD, because they're going to need graphics in the range of 400 AMD GPU cores. Or 200 Nvidia GPU cores, also a good buy, or ARM and or Qualcomm, these companies are cheap compared to Samsung's, or Microsoft's, or Apples valuations and cash war chests.
AMD has a stack of 64 bit and big graphics patents, with the possibility of 7" UD 4k next year, Toshiba showed 10" UD at CES 2013, Samsung have announced 5" double FHD smartphones next year. Current 5" FHD screens have a pixels per inch ratio sufficient for UD 10", Sammy's 5" 2x FHD is dense enough for 7" UD, 10" 2x FHD is now a year old, UD Android TV HDMI sticks cost only $100 without 14 nm 64 bit technology. Note 3 can record in UD without 14/64 GRAM, the big guys of mobile, are going to want big graphics, to drive UD games, at 7" next year.