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Intel Twisting ARM?

Intel Twisting ARM?
by Daniel Nenni on 07-10-2011 at 11:00 am

Intel’s new Tri-Gate technology is causing quite a stir on the stock chat groups. Some have even said if Intel uses its Tri-Gate technology on only Intel processors ARM will be in deep deep trouble. These guys are “Intel Longs” of course and they are battling “Intel Shorts” with cut and paste news clips.

“ARM is in trouble & this is why. Future smartphones will require more & more capability/features/functions. That’s just the way it is. ARM is great at performance/power/other specs based on today’s capabilities. But, when the architecture gets stretched, all bets are off. We’re starting to see that today with certain benchmarks. Intel’s architecture will be far superior in the long run because they own the end-to-end (design to manufacturing), it will be scalable, it will be affordable, etc. The analysts are too dumb to understand this yet. They will in less than a year’s time though.” backbay_bston

I don’t own any of these stocks so I’m financially neutral but clearly I’m very suspicious of Intel’s Tri-Gate claims as I blogged in: TSMC Versus Intel: The Race to Semiconductors in 3D! That blog got me an invitation to the Intel RNB (Robert Noyce Building) to meet with one of their manufacturing guys and talk about Tri-Gate. I spend a lot of time in Asia and saw the horrors of 40nm statistical process variation (yield). More recently I have seen a near perfect implementation of 28nm HKMG, but I promise you I’m going into this meeting with an open mind and an Intel powered laptop.

In preparation for my technical deep dive on TriGate technology at RNB I need to come up with good questions so I will look smart. I could really use your help with this, here is what I have so far:

On the manufacturing side:

  • What is the difference between Tri-Gate and bulk CMOS HKMG?
  • Additional processing steps?
  • How many more masks/layers?
  • Special manufacturing equipment?

    On the design side:

  • Spice Models: There are no “standards” for multi-gate Spice models — the Compact Model Council has not really made adoption of MG models a priority… What did Intel use for device models and circuit simulation? An approach internal to Intel? (Most of the modeling research published in technical journals to date has been for a single fin.)
  • Layout Dependent Effects: For several generations of planar technologies, the influence of Layout Dependent Effects has continued to increase — what are the LDE in a Tri-Gate technology? For example, for six device fins in parallel, do the fins on the outer edges behave differently than the middle fins? Or, is the volume of the fin so small that adjacent layout structures have little influence on the device current? (If LDE is less of an issue with Tri-Gates, that would be a major turning point in CAD tools and flows.) Restricted design rules?
  • Custom parasitic extraction with Tri-Gate is very challenging! There are unique device parasitics associated with Tri-Gates — the input gate resistance is more intricate due to the 3D topology over and between fins, and the parasitic gate-to-drain and gate-to-source capacitances are likewise more involved. What approach did Intel take toward parasitic extraction? (Were “standard” multiple-fin device combinations chosen to simplify the task of (custom) parasitic extraction?)
  • Why 6 and 2? Intel appears to have “standardized” on offering two design choices — six FinFET’s in parallel and two in parallel — what were the considerations that went into this choice? (also, see #3)
  • AMSdesign impact of Tri-Gate: Analog mixed-signal designs are constrained by the limited availability of diodes and resistors that are available in planar technology — what circuit methodology changes did the AMS design teams have to make? Did Intel ever consider offering a mixed TriGate and planar device offering on the same die.
  • MultiVt Device Options and Circuit Optimization: Tri-Gate does not offer the custom circuit designer as much freedom in design optimization, due to the quantization of the device width in increments of additional fins… what changes did Intel make to their circuit optimization methods? What device Vt and gate length options are available to designers for optimization?
  • Thermal Characteristics: What additional thermal heat transfer issues are present, due to the power dissipation in the small volume of the fin?
  • Tri-Gate vs. Dual-Gate FinFET’s: Was this comparison done? Why did Intel choose a “tri-gate” device, rather than a “dual-gate” device (with a thicker, non-contributing oxide on top of the fin? (Tri-Gate devices are reported to have worse leakage current behavior, at the top corners of the fin.)
  • Statistical Process Variation: How will it be addressed? What are the major contributors to statistical process variation with FinFET fabrication?
  • Fin Dimensions: The fin height, fin thickness, and spacing between fins are key manufacturing parameters toward achieving a high circuit density — what criteria did Intel use in optimizing the Tri-Gate device dimensions?

    Let me know what else interests you about Intel’s new Tri-Gate technology. Clearly the design side questions are for the people who believe Intel is a foundry.

    Tri-Gate technology certainly could be a game changer, especially for AMD. How is AMD going to compete on processor speed using 28nm Gate-First HKMG technology? Is this a factor in AMD’s inability to attract a top CEO candidate?

    For those of you who have not met me before here is a recent mug shot.
    Not only do I have a hot wife half my age but look at the size of my head. You can only imagine how smart I am. Plus I drive a Porsche. Cool AND smart, absolutely.

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