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TSMC and ARM Serving up 7nm!

TSMC and ARM Serving up 7nm!
by Daniel Nenni on 03-15-2016 at 10:00 am

 One thing I learned while writing the books about TSMC and ARM is that collaboration has always been at the core of both companies. They started with collaboration on day one and it is now a natural part of their business models. And the word collaboration in the fabless semiconductor ecosystem gets redefined at every process node, absolutely.

As I write this I am in the lobby of the Hilton at the San Jose Convention Center waiting for the 22[SUP]nd[/SUP] annual TSMC Technical Symposium to start. This event is unique as it is invitation only for TSMC collaboraters (customers and partners). The Toms (Tom Simon and Tom Dillinger) and I will be covering it live for SemiWiki so stay tuned.

One of the more interesting press releases to come out before the event is the one highlighting the TSMC and ARM collaboration on 7nm. Interesting because it focuses on the server market (high-performance compute) which should be a very big swing for the fabless semiconductor ecosystem.

The first book we published was a brief history of the fabless semiconductor ecosystem. I really have to thank Intel for the motivation on that book. Remember when Mark Bohr of Intel said, “The fabless model is collapsing”? This was back in 2012 and referenced TSMC 20nm. Today TSMC will talk about 16FFC, 10nm, and 7nm, all of which will signal for the first time a process lead change from IDM to foundry. So not only was the fabless business model NOT collapsing, it is now challenging the feasibility of the IDM model.

The second book we published is a detailed history of ARM followed by brief histories of Apple, Samsung, and Qualcom. This is an SoC focused book documenting the billions of ARM enabled devices. In the epilogue we talk about how ARM gets to the trillions of devices and that of course brings us to IoT, which is what our third book is about.

Will there be a fourth SemiWiki book? Well, we are looking for topics right now with the leading candidate being the server market and this is why:

“Existing ARM-based platforms have been shown to deliver an increase of up to 10x in compute density for specific data center workloads,” said Pete Hutton, executive vice president and president of product groups, ARM. “Future ARM technology designed specifically for data centers and network infrastructure and optimized for TSMC 7nm FinFET will enable our mutual customers to scale the industry’s lowest-power architecture across all performance points.”

“TSMC continuously invests in advanced process technology to support our customer’s success,” said Dr. Cliff Hou, vice president, R&D, TSMC. “With our 7nm FinFET, we have expanded our Process and Ecosystem solutions from mobile to high performance compute. Customers designing their next generation high-performance computing SoCs will benefit from TSMC’s industry-leading 7nm FinFET, which will deliver more performance improvement at the same power or lower power at the same performance as compared to our 10nm FinFET process node. Jointly optimized ARM and TSMC solutions will enable our customers to deliver disruptive, first-to-market products.”

Now that the foundries have the process lead and 64-bit ARM technology has a significant price/power/performance advantage over other architectures, I see the sever market as being the next big Fabless v. IDM battlefield. Remember, at the 2015 ARM TechCon it was stated that ARM is predicting a 25% server market share by 2020. SemiWiki is totally on board with this strategy and, if successful, it will certainly make a good book.


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