Having followed GF since its inception, I agree with CTO Gary Patton, what we are seeing today truly is a different GLOBALFOUNDRIES! Our first GF blog was published on 9/13/2009 and we have done a total of 173 GF related blogs that have collected more than 1.5M views thus far. 72 of those blogs were written by me so I have followed this story closely. It was always my hope that GF would bring serious competition back to the Pure-play foundry business and they have, absolutely.
The GLOBALFOUNDRIES Technical Conference theme this year is Enabling Connected Intelligence which is an umbrella for the current semiconductor market drivers: Mobile, Automotive, and IoT. The key ingredient of course is 5G. Per his keynote, GF CEO Sanjay Ja expects 5G to be as disruptive as the transition from voice to data which of course was the precursor to the internet and world wide web and I agree completely.
In looking at the onslaught of GF press releases at GTC you can see how 5G plays into their strategy:
Remember, 5g is all about RF and GF has the famed IBM RF group that boasts top market share with 32B RF SOI chips and more than 5B SIGe chips shipped.
The second keynote was from Qualcomm’s EVP Cristiano Amon. I was quite happy to see his name on the agenda because Cristiano is a great speaker and I had always hoped that QCOM would throw their weight behind the GF foundry effort, especially when Sanjay Ja took over as CEO (Sanjay is from QCOM). Unfortunately that has not happened yet. QCOM left long term foundry partner TSMC for Samsung at 14nm and 10nm then went back to TSMC for 7nm and is now using Samsung for 11nm and 8nm.
This is not surprising as QCOM is historically a hard core foundry outsourcing company. I remember them using (4) different foundries for 40nm. It really was infuriating for TSMC to do all of the leading edge process work with Qualcomm only to lose the very profitable 2[SUP]nd[/SUP], 3[SUP]rd[/SUP], and 4[SUP]th[/SUP] source business to UMC, SMIC, and Chartered. But competition is the foundation of semiconductor manufacturing. QCOM is also not a big FD-SOI supporter which is a disappointment, especially when they are talking up automotive and IoT.
The third keynote was Gary Patton which covered the GF CMOS and FD-SOI roadmaps which included slides on Photonics, EUV, and of course Machine Learning. A couple of Gary’s FD-SOI slides caught my eye. 22FDX has a nice ecosystem developing with all of the top names. Currently, 22FDX has 15 confirmed tape-outs happening this year and next. I know several of those first hand so that number is easy to believe. Scott Jones attended the conference as well and spent time with Gary so expect much more detail from him next week.
All-in-all it really was a great conference, the food was excellent, the 500+ crowd included familiar faces amongst the semiconductor elite including Aart de Geus. If you want to stalk Aart get on the Legally Blue FaceBook page. Great music and you get to see Aart unload and set up his own equipment. Rumor has it his next gig is at Google to benefit animal rescue.
The only downside of the day was the EUV talk. GF was not as EUV positive as TSMC so that will be an interesting story to follow next year. After my last trip to Hsinchu I’m very confident TSMC will have 7nm (N7+) EUV out in time for the 2019 Apple products. I also believe current TSMC 7nm customers (just about every top semiconductor company) will move to N7+. It is easier to design to and you get a 1.2x density and a 10% performance or 20% power improvement so hopefully GF will up their EUV game.
I just scratched the surface here so hit me up in the comments section for a more detailed discussion. I have photos of the slides but they are a bit fuzzy. The event was recorded so it should be up on the GF website sometime soon.