As a rule, foundries hold their technology roadmaps pretty closely. New nodes and technologies are qualified on their own test runs and then through close collaboration with ecosystem partners and tier one customers. That’s not likely to change much, but one thing that did strike me about the Common Platform Technology Forum was that broad disclosure (and an urging that all customers need to start preparing) was taking place earlier than usual.
It’s not hard to see why. As noted by GlobalFoundries‘ Subi Kengeri, Head of Advanced Technology Architecture, “Planar is dead.” Certainly from the 14nm node, where all three CP alliance members (the other two being IBM and Samsung) made it clear that we will be moving to 3D device structures, specifically finFETs.
It was IBM’s Gary Patton, VP of its Semiconductor Research & Development Center, who noted that every decade or so, the prevailing technology simply runs out of steam and you have to move on.This doesn’t mean that we reach a dead stop; rather, we have to do something else (and the industry has been good at finding ‘something elses’ for decades). Intel may be doing so already with its tri-gate, but it has always been an exception. Pushing hard on finFET at 14nm makes a lot of sense for the wider market, if you don’t have the resources of the world’s largest chipmaker. These things do take time.
So how do you get ready? Well, ARM’s Greg Yeric offered some excellent pointers in our Newsletter #2, and we’ll be following up on his and other presentations at the CPTF in more detailed technical articles here over the next couple of weeks. But a lot of the onus will fall on the ecosystem.
Given that no-one would claim that 28nm has been easy (and some of you may think I’m being extremely charitable with my choice of word even there), you can see why there’s some good old fear, uncertainty and doubt spreading about finFET. OK, but getting back to the original point, what we are seeing is not only the ‘commercially confidential’ engagements taking place earlier, but also those with the wider non-bleeding edge community. And that, at least, is the right place to start.
Meanwhile both Kengeri’s and Patton’s CPTF presentations can still be viewed online in the forum’s virtual edition, wherever you are, as can that on 3D opportunities from Dr. Jong Shik Yoon, Samsung’s Senior Vice President of Semiconductor R&D. They will also get you on the right track.