IBM, Chartered Expand 90-nm Program

IBM continued its quest to conquer the sub-micron
processor marketplace with the addition of design support from some design friends, the company said Monday.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant said it has inked a deal to expand the scope of its 90-nanometer semiconductors with the help of Cadence Design Systems, Magma Design Automation, Mentor Graphics Corporation, and Synopsys.

The four companies said they will supply design libraries, electronic design automation (EDA) tools and standard foundry reference flows for IBM and its 90-nm partner, Singapore-based Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing .

The deal is designed to relax IBM and Chartered customers who may be on the fence when it comes to adopting 90-nm process, which has a reputation for being expensive.

Industry statistics published by the 2003 edition of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) said the move to 90-nm comes with an estimated $30 million price tag per development. Researchers suggest the cost may be mitigated in building larger sized wafers, which would fit more chips on it per-square-millimeter.

The fabrication industry is currently shifting from 200mm to 300mm wafers. The assistance from the four design firms is also expected to streamline operations between the IBM and Chartered foundries. Artisan Components and Virage Logic supported the initial cross-foundry design program.

“It is critical that we continue to develop and support a global
technology platform that gives our customers access to the industry’s most advanced 90nm process and do it in a way that makes moving between our two foundries transparent,” Tom Reeves, vice president, semiconductor products and solutions, IBM Systems & Technology Group said in a statement. “By working closely with experts that are deeply involved with issues such as power, signal integrity, timing closure and design for manufacturing, we can
streamline the development process for our mutual customers.”

For the partners, Cadence said it would contribute its RTL-to-GDSII reference flow based on the Encounter digital IC design platform; Magma is supplying its design enablement kit with RTL-to-GDSII reference flow for its Blast Create, Blast Plan and Blast Fusion advanced IC design tools; Mentor is serving up its Calibre design-to-silicon platform support for physical design verification; and Synopsys is also offering its RTL-to-GDSII implementation flow based on the Galaxy Design Platform and verification based on the Discovery Verification Platform.

IBM has been at the forefront of nanotechnology development. The
company’s work with carbon nanotube logic circuits and molecular
electronics, for example, is squarely aimed at maintaining its commercial edge through the release of more powerful computers five, 10 or 15 years into the future and beyond.

What is really different about IBM is the company’s resources. Most other nanotech initiatives and companies, even the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative’s $600 million budget, pale in comparison.

IBM has, and is, investing billions in nano. Its $2.5 billion foundry in East Fishkill, N.Y. is IBM’s main playground for sub-micron development. The company is
currently shipping 90-nm with much progress being made in chips produced at
65-nm, 45-nm and 30-nm levels.

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