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IBM's new breakthrough could allow its next generation of Cell processors to reach 22 nm before Intel does.
New techniques will allow tinier computer chips than ever before

The race to shrink circuits is a never ending one.  Having achieved 45nm with its Penryn processors, Intel is looking to move to 32nm next year for the die-shrink of its upcoming Nehalem processor.  Meanwhile, competitor AMD is struggling to get its first 45nm offering, Shanghai, ready for release later this year

However, while the back-and-forth between AMD and Intel often steals the show, the race for die shrinks has several other key competitors.  One is Texas Instruments (TI), who claims to lead Intel in 45nm deployment and performance.  While TI currently doesn't have much in the way of PC/server processor plans, IBM does.  IBM is looking to beat AMD and Intel in die-shrinks and pave the way for its processors to dominate a number of markets, including the PC/server space.

Having already shrunk its powerful Cell processor used in the PS3 to a 45nm production process, IBM is planning to quickly transition to 22nm.

At 22nm, the existing techniques for microprocessor manufacturing useful at the 45nm and 32nm nodes will become obsolete.  While currently lithography techniques cannot produce 22nm circuitry, IBM has developed a new approach called Computational Scaling, which will allow for this tiny-scale production.  The new technique uses advanced mathematical computation to adjust the shape of the masks and illuminating source during etching.

One key advantage of IBM's breakthrough is that it can advance from 32nm to 22nm without fundamental changes to its equipment.  While Intel and AMD are likely to devise similar techniques, the early breakthrough may allow IBM to seize a lead in shrinking, helping it to continue Moore's Law.

Advantages of such smaller processor are numerous.  Due to the shorter interconnects, and other factors, smaller die-sizes yield power savings.  Further, the tiny size will allow for heat reduction.  Finally, it may also allow for more cores in similar packaging.

Like Intel, IBM is planning to bring its 32nm processors to market in 2009.  However, whether it will adhere to Intel's 2011 deployment of 22nm or jump the gun is up in the air.

One thing that is clear is that IBM has plans to deploy 22nm server chips to compete with Intel's offerings.  IBM hopes to apply the new tech to its cloud computing efforts.  It hopes the greater efficiency and processing power afforded by 22nm will help to justify an increasing amount of business and private processing to be offloaded to cloud computing datacenters.

IBM also announced in August that it and its partners had developed a method of manufacturing static RAM (SRAM) cells at a 22nm node.



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RE: C'mon Jason, dig a little deeper
By cheetah2k on 9/23/2008 10:24:19 PM , Rating: 2
I think its about time IBM bought out AMD. Share prices are low, AMD is picking up their game (albeit in graphics), and IBM have cash to burn.

While I know its just not IBM's strategic approach, such a purchase would enable IBM to take Server, Desktop and Graphics markets by storm and make the battle between David (aka AMD) and Goliath (Intel) so much more competitive. I'm confident that with funds and the right motivated management/staff, AMD would have the tools and resources to get out of the gutter, and back into the drivers seat...

I'm not a fanboy, but as an Australian I do love an "under-dog". However, if something doesn't change for AMD soon (including the US economy), with the AMD's headstone already carved and grave already dug (Intel's new 6 core Xeon), the future isnt looking bright at all..


By leidegre on 9/24/2008 3:41:49 AM , Rating: 2
This idea has some appeal to me. It actually sounds like something that really could (and maybe should) happen. Interestingly enough, the XBOX 360 features an IBM CPU and an AMD (formerly ATI) GPU. As they say, if you can't beat them, join them. As well, the CBEA/PS3 (Cell Broadband Engine Architecture) was at least co-developed by IBM. The PowerPC is pretty much gone, but IBM lives on through our consoles.


By Dasickninja on 9/24/2008 12:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
IBM doesn't want to have to get into the commodity CPU market again, especially with the way things are looking for x86 CPUs. They make far more money selling the technology and licencing that they did when they were a chip maker. It may be a good thing for AMD if IBM bought them out, but what really is IBM's interest in opening that can of worms?


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