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Intel Hardware

Intel Opening Foundry To Third Parties 51

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the open-the-trigate dept.
angry tapir writes "Intel is exploring whether it can branch out as a foundry by opening its chip manufacturing facilities to more third-party customers. Intel has expanded its chip-to-order business by signing up additional customers to take advantage of its 22-nanometer process facilities." In particular, two FPGA design companies will be using Intel's fabrication plant, and "the unit has more than two customers but others are not disclosing their plans yet."
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Intel Opening Foundry To Third Parties

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  • by rickb928 (945187) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:17AM (#39124857) Homepage Journal

    But AMD could use a good fab.

    Just sayin'

    • Just imagine nVidia makes GPUs at Intel to get a full process node ahead of ATI/AMD. It seems unlikely they'd let AMD use their 22nm process to compete with themselves. OTOH, nVidia is now a competitor as well.

      I was wondering if/when Intel would do this, since they are essentially a full process generation ahead of the whole world.
      • by alvinrod (889928)
        If they were going to let nVidia use it for GPUs, they'd probably let AMD use it for GPUs as well. If they didn't AMD would probably die within a few years and leave Intel as the only major remaining x86 manufacturer and make them a de facto monopoly. Alternatively, Intel could let AMD make anything that they wanted to at Intel's fabs. Right now Intel has a much better architecture and is better in almost every way outside of integrated graphics, so they would still maintain superiority over AMD for several
    • by CxDoo (918501)

      Nah this is more like Intel going after AMD foundry too. kick them while they are on the ground and all that.

      • I think AMD is not Intel's only concern. The other chip foundries like TSMC, UMC, and GlobalFoundries probably worry Intel more. The increasing sales of ARM based mobile devices presents a challenge to Intel in the future. Other chip foundries are agnostic to the platform; they will make whatever chip you want. While this change will focus on FPGA, it could develop into other types including ARM. Just a thought.
        • by symbolset (646467) *

          I said this when we talked about this rumor before. It is as simple as it can get. Intel has a Fab business that is a part of their manufacturing operation. They turn sand into chips, and then to money. Fabs are horrifically expensive and new process fabs even more so. If people pay Intel to turn their designs into chips Intel gets that money to sink into future R&D and more wonderful fabs - and of course, profits. If Intel turns away that work, Intel's Fab competitors get that money to do those th

      • Nah this is more like Intel going after AMD foundry too. kick them while they are on the ground and all that.

        AMD doesn't own their fab anymore. They are still big shareholders, however.
        Global Foundries has been bleeding money for ages because they can't get their shit together. AMD should just dump their stock in the river and tell Intel to build them a 22 nm Piledriver chip.

        • by CxDoo (918501)

          I am aware AMD spun off Global Foundries, however they are still married to them.

          OTOH, it makes no sense for Intel to go after AMD, as someone above mentioned. They own them in architecture and process.

          I don't understand why would they offer their process to others when it is their biggest advantage.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            OTOH, it makes no sense for Intel to go after AMD, as someone above mentioned. They own them in architecture and process.

            I don't understand why would they offer their process to others when it is their biggest advantage.

            Intel offering fabs to AMD would benefit Intel greatly. Sure they're manufacturing their competitor's product, but that's the key - "competitor". There's no real competition in the x86 space - you have a few other x86 compatibles, but nothing matches the desktop line, except AMD.

            And Intel ne

  • I wonder if Apple's rocky relationship with Samsung could be a motivator. Intel would love some of the iDevice revenue.

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      Well, I'm under the impression that apple currently use TSMC for their CPUs, but yes, I could see them wanting a smaller, lower power processes.

      • Apple currently uses both Samsung and TSMC with Samsung manufacturing the bulk of the A5s at the moment as TSMC ramps up production. The lawsuit between Apple and Samsung might have been a factor but it just makes good sense to have more than one supplier of a critical component especially in different countries as both the Japanese earthquake and the Thailand floods show.
    • Would be bad business for Intel in some ways. They are competing with those chips (ARM) and it seems silly to me that they would offer their _massive_ competitive advantage (top flight manufacturing with large capacity) to a competitor.

      They could only manufacture using a previous generation process, I guess. Make their Atom chips on e.g. 14nm and only offer 22nm fabbing for third parties.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd love to see Atmel microcontrollers made on 22nm process. ATtiny85, 84, 861, etc running faster than 20MHz with twice the flash and RAM, anyone?

    • I'd love to see Atmel microcontrollers made on 22nm process. ATtiny85, 84, 861, etc running faster than 20MHz with twice the flash and RAM, anyone?

      Something tells me the idle power consumption would suck due to leakage. You don't need to go for 22nm to do 20+ MHz. You can get to a few hundred MHz just fine in the 500nm range.

      • The Intel Fin transistor design, the Tri Gate transistor cuts the leakage to a tiny value while keeping up the performance. Big transistors (500nm) have their power consumption when clocked as the device becomes a huge CCD device switching distributed capacitance from power to ground. Power per operation is high. Low K dielectrics, small dimensions, combined cut power in high speed operation. Low leakage cuts power draw in all operations. Going big dimensions to cut leakage, requires higher voltage to

        • All right, you are correct, but...

          Going big dimensions to cut leakage, requires higher voltage to cut the transistors off, resulting in higher power use per clock cycle when switched.

          ..that assumes that you have clock cycles in the first place. Why not make the circuit asynchronous? See ARM Amulet, c18, GreenArrays, etc. In microcontrollers, you should be able to afford it, they aren't that complex.

    • by wmac1 (2478314)
      Perhaps you need 2GHz (because you are talking about 22nm). Besides ATMEL micro-controllers are very simple integrated circuits in comparison to x86 and 64 CPUs. Some of them are hardly even VLSI.
    • I was thinking along the same lines, although I think the z80 might be a more fitting choice.... It would be like the errant step-child coming home to roost ;)

      Squeeze in the uint8 AVX instructions, add some internal ram, keep it within the original 80 pin package, and I'd finally be able to pimp my 48k speccy to a whole new level of awesome!!
  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:40AM (#39125101) Homepage

    Larrabee almost certainly lowered future expectations for discrete graphics chips, fearing that Chipzilla would enter their market. I'm guessing this is the same for the foundry business, scaring away potential investors in TSMC, UMC and GloFo. Huge, huge investment costs that take years to materialize and are extremely time-to-market sensitive, any uncertainty you can add to that is advantage Intel. I very much doubt that anything remotely competing with Intel will ever get their hands on their crown jewels.

    • by afidel (530433)
      More like Intel using their fab capital as seed money for small startups that they might want to buy. If they're small and already on Intel process then it's an easy way for Intel to buy into a market that gets hot.
  • by gweeks (91403) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:53AM (#39125347) Homepage

    Tabula has some cool tech. Their current chips aren't dense enough for what we wanted to do with them, but at 22nm they might be.

  • I wonder (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by squidflakes (905524)

    Any slashdotters familiar enough with FPGAs to know if they could be used to create digital camera sensors?

    One thing that's been lacking from digital photography is an "affordable" large format digital camera that is good for anything other than still life. Currently, if you are going to do large format digital, you have to use a back that takes an optical scan of your ground glass, and that can take up to 30 seconds.

    • From my understanding FPGAs is a type of integrated circuit. A camera sensor like CCD or CMOS sensor are other types of ICs. Their manufacturing is different as well as their functionality. You cannot use a FPGA as a camera sensor any more than you can use your car transmission as your engine.
      • Ahh, good to know. Thank you!

    • they are different electrical devices, FPGAs only allow you to implement different logical functions.

      • by dbc (135354)

        Soooo much misunderstanding here, all around.

        CCDs are one kind of sensor. I'm not very familiar with the physics. In any case, no FPGA that I know of contains CCD cells.

        CMOS sensors are another way to sense light. The physics behind a CMOS sensor is that if you have a CMOS RAM cell, and expose it to light, the light depletes (IIRC, maybe it enhances??) the charge. Anyway, A CMOS image sensor is a big RAM that has been optimized for photonic effects and laid out with a geometry that makes image retrieval

    • No. I'd imagine that some digital cameras use FPGA's though, but only as a way to get high speed image processing capabilities (performed in parallel)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ask the folks over at Digital Equipment Corp how well that worked for them. -oh wait.
    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/1997/10/8024

  • I wonder if this will ultimately lead to them spinning off their foundries...in the past, I thought they have viewed their foundries as a competitive advantage against other chip makers. I wonder if that's still the case.

    • I thought they have viewed their foundries as a competitive advantage against other chip makers.

      They may still. If they offer their foundries' services at a premium, that would be one way to profit off of that advantage. The 22/20nm node is still years away for other foundries, so the combined "3d transistor" and more chips per wafer that 22/20nm bring should provide some serious cash. Not that anybody cares if their chip is made at 22nm, but if it means they can yield 25% more chips from a wafer, that's

    • Intel is a manufacturing company. Spinning off their foundries would be like McDonald's spinning off their hamburger business.

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        Strangely enough, only 15% of those hamburger businesses are owned by McDonald's. So it's more likely than you might think.
  • Maybe Intel is hoping nVidia or AMD will use their foundry to fab their GPUs. And then Intel magically comes out with a GPU that doesn't suck 6 months later.

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