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ARM partnerships to shrink Cortex processors

Jul 22, 2010 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

ARM and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) announced a long-term agreement that, the companies say, will provide the silicon foundry with access to ARM IP, and ultimately result in tiny Cortex processors created via a 20-nanometer process. Separately, ARM linked up with electronic design firm Cadence to develop “an optimized System Realization solution for ARM processors.”

ARM and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) announced a long-term agreement that, the companies say, will provide the silicon foundry with access to ARM IP, and ultimately result in tiny Cortex processors created via a 20-nanometer process. Separately, ARM linked up with electronic design firm Cadence to develop "an optimized System Realization solution for ARM processors." The jointly announced agreement between ARM and TSMC "provides TSMC access to optimize the implementation of ARM processors on TSMC process technologies, including the ARM Cortex processor family and CoreLink interconnect fabric for AMBA protocols." It also "establishes a long-term relationship with ARM for the development of physical IP, including memory products and standard cell libraries," the companies stated.

John Heinlein (right), a vice president of marketing for ARM's physical IP division, wrote in a blog posting Tuesday, "While it is well known ARM and TSMC have a long history of collaboration, this is the broadest agreement between the two companies to date. TSMC will get access to tune the implementation of a broad selection of Cortex family processors and CoreLink System IP.

"This ranges from our smallest Cortex-M0 core, targeting the embedded market, through our high performance Cortex-A9 core which is positioned in high-end mobile devices, advanced consumer electronics and beyond," Heinlein continued.

According to Heinlein, ARM will work with TSMC to develop its IP for "at least" two of the foundry's 28-nanometer processes: 28nm HP (high performance, High-K Metal Gate) and 28nm HPL (low power, High-K Metal Gate). No date for availability of die-shrunk ARM CPUs was mentioned, but Heinlein added that "the 28nm node … is headed toward qualification later this year."

ARM and TSMC further said they'll collaborate on 20-nm versions of Cortex processors in the future, though, again, no timetable was provided.

"Sounds to me like smart mobile devices are going to get smaller, cooler, and more powerful — just what the weather ordered," Heinlein wrote.

As noted by Heinlein, ARM and TSMC are longtime collaborators. Last September, for instance, ARM announced dual-core implementations of its Cortex-A9 designed for TSMC's 40nm process. Code-named "Osprey," these products were touted as smaller and higher-performing than Intel's Atom CPUs, and would be available in the form of evaluation chips during the first quarter of 2010, it was said.

TSMC, which is said to be the world's largest dedicated semiconductor maker and also manufactures Atom chips (among others) for Intel, held a groundbreaking ceremony last week for a new $9.3 billion plant in Taichung, Taiwan. Citing "strong customer demand," the company said "Fab 15" will be its third fab with a capacity of more than 100,000 12-inch wafers per month, and the second equipped for 28nm technology.

Volume production of 40nm and 28nm products will begin at Fab 15 in the first quarter of 2012, while "more advanced process nodes will be introduced as TSMC's technology development continues to accelerate," the company said. Fab 15's clean-room area will stretch over 104,000 square meters — approximately 14 soccer fields — while total building area is 430,000 square meters, TSMC added.

Meanwhile ARM has also been cozying up to AMD spinoff Global Foundries, as we reported last November. The "long-term strategic relationship" will first bear fruit in the manufacture of Cortex-A8 processors via a 28nm process, the companies said at the time.

Collaborating with Cadence

ARM and EDA (electronic design automation) giant Cadence announced today they would broaden their existing collaboration to "develop an optimized System Realization solution" for ARM processors. This will "enable an end-to-end flow including a full set of interoperable tools, ARM processor and physical IP, services and methodology," the companies added.

To deliver the System Realization solution, Cadence said, it will take the following actions:

  • support embedded software optimized for ARM processor-based devices in its recently announced IP stacks
  • enhance the interoperability of ARM tools and IP including ARM DS-5 and RealView Development Suite, Fast Models, and VSTREAM transactor with Cadence Virtualization technologies
  • expand its existing collaboration on AMBA IP-VIP pairs and interconnect fabric, as well as reference methodologies for design, verification, and implementation

John Bruggeman, chief marketing officer (CMO) for Cadence, and a former Wind River CMO, stated, "Cadence continues to build our System Realization solution through collaboration with others and delivery of new methodologies. The Cadence and ARM solution will combine industry leading IP to help break down the cost and development barriers that are preventing consumer devices from achieving breakaway market success. ARM IP is prevalent in current and future consumer devices, and the jointly developed solution will unleash new, compelling innovation."

Further information

The referenced blog posting by ARM's John Heinlein may be found here.

An interesting article on collaboration between ARM and Cadence may be found on the Bright Side of News website, here.


This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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