GlobalFoundries – Expanding to Meet Demand

It’s been about a year since we last had a serious discussion with GlobalFoundries. Last CES, they were relatively recently separated from AMD and we didn’t have a whole lot to report; 12 months later, there’s a lot more going on. They are now doing full production of 45nm and 40nm chips, the latter going into many of the other electronics devices we use on a regular basis. Where AMD and Intel have lived on the 65nm, 45nm, and now 32nm nodes, most of the other IP developments are happening on the so-called half-nodes. Smartphones and their related technologies are the big one, and GF is working with many of the major players—Qualcomm, ST, ARM, and others. GlobalFoundries now has 300mm fabs in Germany, New York, and Singapore with additional 200mm fabs in Singapore; all told there are 12 locations with approximately 10,000 employees.

One of the big questions last year was how GlobalFoundries would handle the needs of other fabless semiconductor companies. The acquisition of Chartered Semiconductor increased their presence in a big way, also giving GF fabrication facilities in Singapore. While AMD continues to use nearly all of the 45nm capacity, the 40nm production has a long list of partners. The Dresden fab 1 is adding capacity and they’re pushing up to 80,000 wafers per month. The upstate New York fab 8 construction continues to progress, and demand for their services is great enough that GF has already begun working to expand the facility before the current construction is even complete! Fab 8 should come online in 2013, with production focused on 22/20nm output and capacity for around 60,000 wafers per month.

Right now, GlobalFoundries is entering full production mode for 32nm, with AMD’s Llano chips scheduled to be the first market solution to use the process. Later this year, AMD will also launch their Bulldozer cores on the 32nm process. In a similar vein, the 28nm node uses the same gate stack and will leverage the learning of their x86/32nm ramp. Qualification and production of 28nm will continue over the coming year, with plenty of new 28nm devices to come. One of the interesting points GF brought up is that in the past, doing test SRAM wafers has been the common practice for ironing out the glitches in a new process. SRAM wafers produce regular grids where errors are easy to detect; the problem is that complex logic stresses the latest process technology in a different way. To further help with process refinements, GF also runs a test SoC ARM Cortex A9 microprocessor design through the pipeline. The results of this test wafer not only help them find and fix problems, but they also give a better idea of how chips on the new process perform. The following slide summarizes what they’ve seen so far.

Bumping typical clock speeds from 1.5 to 2.0GHz for the lower power designs, and from 2.0 to 2.5GHz on higher performance chips is good, but even more importantly GF saw power requirements drop up to 30%. Providing 25-33% more performance using 30% less power (and a 100% increase in standby battery life) will be key to enabling the next generation of mobile devices, and we should continue to see a roughly two-fold improvement in performance at a given power envelope every couple of years. Over the course of the year we should see a major transition from 45nm to 32nm for AMD solutions, while the other devices should experience a similar transition from 40nm to 28nm.

GF looks to be doing well, and they are looking like a viable alternative to TSMC for companies looking for fabrication facilities. They have technologies ready for all the electronics segments, from CPUs and microprocessors to smartphones and DTV. They’re also looking at opportunities in the MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, i.e. DLP, optical switches) and 3D stacking. Over the next two years, they should more than double their 300mm wafer capacity, and continue R&D into future technologies.

Moving beyond 32nm and 28nm, GlobalFoundries is well into the research and design phase on their 22nm and 20nm nodes. We asked about plans beyond 20nm, and GF says that the current planar transistor commonly used in today’s microprocessors should still be good for a few years. After that, they expect the next five or so generations of process refinements to move to more of a vertical arrangement for the transistor layout. Every so often the naysayers inevitably rear up and claim we’re reaching the end of what we can achieve with semiconductor technology. First it was getting below 1 micron, but we’ve long since smashed that barrier and are moving steadily towards the 1nm mark. How small can we go? No one is willing to call it quits yet at GF, and we expect to see additional creative solutions as we run into technological hurdles.

AMD Meetings: APUs Make a Big Splash
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  • Lolimaster - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    And with less bias of course.

    Anandtech Your source for hardware biased analysis and news.
  • bennyg - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    I don't care about four + years ago. I look around now and get a lot more info from AT's reviews and analysis than I do from 95% of other reviews which are just regurgitated press release, rehashed marketing lines, a couple of dodgy graphs and a graphic that takes up half a page with a "Gold Award" or "Editors Choice" or some such rubbish.

    I think you're misinterpreting criticism of crap for "bias".

    If you don't like the product, you can always ask for your money back. Oh wait...
  • mino - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    1) a quality spin is the most dangerous because you do not recognize it ... (it is the same as with good lies)
    2) AT has, as a matter of fact, tendency to get spiny here and there, (but i do not believe it is paid for it)
    3) This specific article is just a news summary of CES. Accusing it of spin is stupid because its primary purpose is REPORTING about (what companies are) spinning at CES!
  • bennyg - Saturday, January 8, 2011 - link

    yeah, I forgot too, Intel's marketing dollars mustn't be enough to stop AT bagging the crap out of Atom every time it's mentioned.


    I also think Intel - especially it seems with SB - are far ahead of AMD's CPUs as well - jeez, I'm biased - where the hell are my Intel Dollars?!
  • srp49ers - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    It seems like you are purposely misleading the readers by saying that bulldozer is coming later this year. When AMD themselves said Q2 at analyst day.
  • Abwx - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    Such innaccuracies are so big that it s not by chance....
  • silverblue - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    It's entirely possible that AMD have purposefully gone quiet on the entire subject for fear of promising something that may yet be delayed yet further. Bulldozer not only caters for the enthusiast segment of the market, but pretty much their entire server roadmap... so it would be good for us to be told sooner rather than later if it's going to be delayed or indeed come in early Spring.

    The server market is their bread and butter, so it's really in their best interests to let their potential customers know the score rather than risk letting them all move over to Nehalem and Sandy Bridge based Xeon servers.
  • tipoo - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    Err, Q2 IS later this year, is it not?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    I have to admit that the complete and utter lack of Bulldozer stuff at CES is rather shocking to me. Dual-core Sandy Bridge isn't going to be immediately available for purchase, but such laptops were everywhere. More to the point, we're seeing a lot of stuff that won't come out officially until Q3'11, so that's why I'm wondering where Bulldozer/Orochi/Zambezi are. If they're launching at the start of next quarter, why not a single sample system at the AMD meeting room?

    Now, to give you the other side of the story, AMD is about at the "quiet time" of the year right before they report earnings. I'm not sure of all the specifics, but basically companies aren't supposed to talk about much at all in such situations, and perhaps that's why Bulldozer isn't at CES. As I mentioned above, AMD did inform me that Llano and Bulldozer would come out within ~1 month of each other, and I believe they were suggesting ~May for Llano which would mean ~June for Bulldozer.

    Anyway, those of you who haven't ever tried to cover a trade show like this can't imagine the difficulty of keeping everything straight. There were several inaccuracies in the initial text, which I have now corrected. however, I got about two hours of sleep Tuesday night before running around all Wednesday. That was followed by ~5 hours of sleep, then more running around like crazy (from ~8:30AM to 6:30PM that night). At the end of all the meetings, you then get to try and put together an article discussing everything you saw that might have been interesting, and lack of sleep certainly comes into play. I thought it would take about an hour to finish up this article when I started at 7PM. It ended up posting at around 12:30AM. It's not that the article took a lot of time to write, but when your brain is fried after a couple hard days it's difficult to focus and get things done--for me at least.

    I've got some other updates regarding AMD to post, but overall I'm quite pleased with what they're releasing right now and I figured most people would accuse me of being too positive. Apparently not.
  • techworm - Saturday, January 8, 2011 - link

    i don't undrstand why you are insisting to put bulldozer later than what is scheduled to be;i mean it has been clarified by AMD that bulldozer will launch prior to Llano which puts it exactly in late april timeframe as was mentioned by some comments

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