Processor Whispers: About Hanover, Dresden and New York
by Andreas Stiller
In the Leine domicile of the Lower Saxons1, a publishing house not unknown in the high-tech sector changes its address2 and two not insignificant high-tech firms hold a joint event in the at least equally beautiful Florence of the Elbe of the Upper Saxons3.
1Hanover, the capital city of Lower Saxony in Germany.
2The parent company of the H, publishing house Heise Zeitschriftenverlag has moved its headquarters within Hanover.
3Dresden, the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany.
At the location of Germany's largest semiconductor factory, AMD and Globalfoundries gave first hand information about the current state of affairs and their roadmap. After all, the two companies have a lot in common – not only their history, main investor and cooperation in processor manufacturing, but now also the leadership situation.
Similar to what happened to Dirk Meyer at AMD a few months ago, Globalfoundries' CEO Doug Grose had to vacate his chair in mid-June and he also has only been replaced by an interim CEO. At least, he is still acting as an adviser for Globalfoundries's strategic alignment. The rumour is that the heavy initial problems in the 32 nm production made his chair swing and that AMD's unflattering adjustment of the contract – under which the processor company intends to pay only for "good" wafers – made it swing too intensely.
So, both companies need a new and strong leader now. In Germany, factory boss Elke Eckstein is in charge at Globalfoundries and she expressed her joy over the chip smithy now having around 150 more clients in addition to AMD. Only a few of them, like STMicroelectronics, are well known, while most are probably clients that joined the family with Chartered 2010, like Microsoft with the Xbox 360 processor. This chip has meanwhile entered production as 45 nm SoC ("Velje") and it could be seen as the first APU combo chip with integrated graphics processor to hit the market, before AMD's Bobcat or Llano or Intel's Sandy Bridge showed up. More strictly speaking, Cyrix had a x86 CPU called "MediaGx" with integrated graphics, including cleverly compressed memory access, a long time ago.
Many smaller clients create income, too – and, in the embedded sector, it need not be the expensive high-end processors. Accordingly, five of six Chartered fabs in Singapore still produce their chips on 200 mm wafers with structure sizes ranging from 110 to 600 nm. Chartered's 300 mm wafer factory, now Globalfoundries's Fab 7, is designed for structure sizes down to 40 nm. However, most of the chips are manufactured in 65 nm as the demand for these chips is still high. And so, Globalfoundries has now decided to collaborate with Synopsys, the leading supplier of Electronic Design Automation (EDA), to release an Interoperable Process Design Kit (iPDK) for two 65 nm processes.
Synopsys has already been collaborating in this area with the market leader in contract manufacturing, TSMC, for two years, and 40 nm iPDKs have been on offer for some time. Another player is Samsung Foundry, which offers 45 nm in mass production, is currently evaluating 32/28 nm and has just launched an Early Access Process Design Kit for 20 nm, in cooperation with ARM, Cadence and Synopsys; Samsung has already been able to present its first 20 nm test chips. It's unlikely that Apple will benefit from this as a client, though, as more or less accurate sources in Taiwan and semi-accurate sources in the USA report that TSMC is either already running tests for the production or actually producing Apple-A-something chips.
In any case, Dresden will remain an important location for Globalfoundries. Worldwide, the company plans to invest around $5.4 billion this year, $1.5 billion of which is bound for Silicon Saxony to extend the clean room area by more than 10,000 m². This new section, called the Annex, now has the status "RfE" – Ready for Equipment – just like the factory under construction in New York. After its completion in 2012, Globalfoundries plans to produce up to 80,000 wafers per month in Dresden alone. New York is supposed to contribute 60,000 wafers in 28 nm technology. But that's not all. There are plans to start the construction of another factory in 2012/2013, in Abu Dhabi – after all, through the holding company ATIC, Abu Dhabi holds about 86 per cent of Globalfoundries shares. Concerning the rumour that Globalfoundries is planning a second factory on the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta/New York, Eckstein conceded that the site offered sufficient space for two more fabs but was unwilling to make any further comments. But where will all the clients come from – maybe IBM intends to cease its own chip production?
Age of the Cloud
The Bulldozer processors, like the Llano chips before them, will emerge from the now well-functioning 32 nm SOI process of Dresden's Fab 1. AMD's Director of Product Marketing, John Fruehe, announced that, unlike the desktop versions, the server chips are still on schedule. Consequently, the first chips should roll out in September, be it the Valencia, equipped with 3 or 4 modules (6 or 8 cores), or the Interlagos, which packs two of these dies in a single housing. To clarify: Bulldozer is the name for the new micro-architecture and Orochi is name for the core while Valencia and Interlagos are the code names for the coming server processors, the official names of which will be Opteron 4200 and 6200. The high-end desktop processor with Orochi core and Bulldozer architecture is code-named Zambezi and will probably hit the market with the official labels FX-2150 to FX-8150 in August.
Trinity is the code name for a Bulldozer chip with an integrated graphics processor for notebooks, destined to be the successor to the Llano. According to Fruehe, the Fusion technology will eventually find its way into servers, too, but only after 2015, in the "heterogeneous age". Right now, we are still in the homogeneous "cloud age".
Meanwhile, new performance results from the Zambezi have found their way into the internet, but those seem to have originated from a prototype of the FX-3180P struggling with L3 performance problems. At least, in the old Cinebench R10, the prototype is roughly head to head with Intel's Core 2600K, only it seems to dislike calculating SuperPi – no wonder, as SuperPi runs on a single core and the Bulldozer is definitely not designed for single threads.