ARM teams up with GlobalFoundries on 20nm chips

ARM has teamed up with one of the world's largest contract chipmakers to make sure it can get the best performance out of its chip designs when manufactured by other companies

ARM has signed a multi-year joint development agreement with GlobalFoundries so that it gets the best possible performance out of its future low-power processors.

The system-on-a-chip (SoC) partnership will see ARM develop a GlobalFoundries-specific set of chip technologies under the ARM Artisan Physical IP brand, to maximise transistor performance and yield when built in GlobalFoundries' fabs.

ARM chip
ARM has signed a multi-year joint development agreement with GlobalFoundries. Image credit: ARM

Unlike Intel, ARM lacks its own semiconductor foundries, so partnerships like this are crucial for assuring a stable manufacturing marketplace for its chips. The agreement follows a server-oriented announcement with TSMC in late July .

"This early engagement promotes the rapid adoption of ARM and GlobalFoundries technologies in future SoCs for several important markets," Simon Segars, general manager of ARM's processor and physical IP division, said.

"Customers designing for mobile, tablet and computing applications will benefit extensively from the energy-efficient ARM processor and graphics processor included in this collaboration."

The agreement also includes development efforts around ARM's 'Mali' graphics technologies and sees both companies commit to developing ARM processors to run on GlobalFoundries' upcoming 20nm production method.

In a statement, ARM said the agreement extends to to GlobalFoundries' sub-20nm 'FinFET' process, though no detail is available. The FinFET process is a 3D, rather than planar, transistor design and is the chipmaker's answer to Intel's 'tri-gate' process.

However, both GlobalFoundries and TSMC are far behind Intel in this area, with analysts expecting the companies to start shipping FinFET-style transistors in 2014/2015. By contrast, Intel is already shipping Ivy Bridge 22nm chips made via a tri-gate process.


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