By Anton Shilov, EETimes (June 15, 2020)
When you are the world’s largest supplier of microprocessors and one of the largest makers of semiconductor in the world, you tend to set ambitious targets in a bid to retain your position and stay ahead of the competition. With its 10nm manufacturing technology, Intel Corp. set goals so ambitious it had to delay high-volume production using this fabrication process, make changes to its roadmap, and even reconsider some aspects of its strategy. Intel is making progress with its10nm process, but with TSMC and Samsung working at nodes they’ve labeled 7nm, 6nm, 5nm, and smaller, where exactly is Intel today?
When a company designs new process technology, it sets certain goals when it comes to performance, power, and area (PPA). Contract makers of semiconductors at times sacrifice one aspect in favor of another because of their very iterative approach to design and because they have to offer a new process every year or so to enable their customers to advance their SoCs on an annual cadence. Some of such nodes are usually called ‘short nodes’ and, unlike ‘long nodes, are used only for a couple of years. By contrast, Intel used to advance its process technologies across all PPA aspects approximately every two years under its Tick-Tock (process-architecture) tenet. In case of its 10nm node (also known as Intel 1274), the company was looking at an up to 2.7x transistor density improvement (when a 6.2T high-density [HD] library is used) along with a 25% performance improvement (at the same power) or a nearly 50% reduction of power consumption (at the same frequency) when compared to its 14nm node.
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