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Intel ARMs Silicon Fabrication

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted August 17, 2016

No need to check your calendar, this isn't April 1. In a surprise announcement at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), Intel and ARM announced a new partnership that will see Intel using its massive fabrication capabilities to build ARM chips.

Intel's 10 nano-meter fabrication platform is being enabled to build ARM Artisan silicon.

Intel ARM"Optimizing this technology for Intel's 10nm process means that foundry customers can take advantage of the IP to achieve best-in-class PPA (power, performance, area) for power-efficient, high-performance implementations of their designs for mobile, IoT and other consumer applications," Zane Ball, vice president in the Technology and Manufacturing Group and co-general manager of Intel Custom Foundry at Intel Corporation, said in a statement.

The ARM chips will be built on the Intel Custom Foundry, which provides contract manufacturing for silicon technologies.

For ARM vendors and users, the partnership represents a new high-quality option for ARM chip production. Specifically, ARM's Processor Optimization Pack (POP) IP is being licensed such that it can be manufactured on the Intel 10nm fabrication facility.

ARM POP works with a variety of ARM processors, including multiple series of ARM Cortex, which are widely used in mobile and embedded devices today. According to ARM's description of ARM POP, it contains Artisan Physical IP standard cells, logic and memory cache instances that are specifically tuned for a given ARM processor and foundry technology.

"This Physical IP is developed through a tightly coupled collaboration with ARM's processor development teams in an iterative process to identify the optimal performance and the best energy efficiency," ARM states.

For ARM, the partnership with Intel now means that its Artisan technology is being built by every major silicon foundry in the world today.

"The value of POP technology for an ARM core on the Intel 10nm process is tremendous, as it will allow for quicker knowledge transfer, enabling customers to lower their risk in implementing the most advanced ARM cores on Intel's leading-edge process technology," Will Abbey, General Manager of the ARM physical design group, wrote in a blog post.

Abbey also noted in his blog post that ARM and Intel have in fact been collaborating with each other for years.

"Despite press stories, Intel and ARM have worked together for years to help enable the ecosystem, and this is just the latest milestone in that long-standing relationship," Abbey wrote. "I see it as a natural evolution of the design ecosystem: ARM is a leader in processor and physical design, and Intel Custom Foundry is a leading integrated device manufacturer."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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