Business, Hardware

ARM and GlobalFoundries attack Intel Atom: 2.5+GHz Cortex-A9

Less than ten months ago, Jim Ballingall, VP of Marketing for GlobalFoundries sat with BSN* and showed a roadmap of their plans to build an ARM Cortex-A9 on a 28nm node. There were only three of us in the room as Ballingall went through a step-by-step process to reach that goal. That day, this BSN* writer was mildly skeptical of their roadmap.

In March 2010, BSN*s Ed-in-Chief went to see GlobalFoundries in Dresden, Germany and saw 28nm wafers with test patterns. On Wednesday at GTC 2010, ARM and GlobalFoundries announced to an audience of nearly two thousand they had taped-out a qualification vehicle based on the ARM Cortex-A9 dual processor, an industry first on 28nm HKMG [High-K Metal Gate] technology. This TQV [Technology Qualification Vehicle] will allow GlobalFoundries to optimize its 28nm HKMG process for customer designs based on the next-generation SoC dual-core ARM processor.

Mojy Chian, GlobalFoundries Senior Vice President of Design Enablement said: "By working closely with ARM in the early stages of technology qualification, we will enable our customers to rapidly bring their ARM Cortex-A9 designs with ARM physical IP to production by setting a new standard for performance and power-efficiency."

The jointly developed TQV reached the tapeout stage in August at GlobalFoundries Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany. Silicon results are expected back from the Fab late this year.

Simon Segars, ARM Executive Vice President and General Manager, Physical IP Division, said: "The combination of ARM’s leading physical IP solutions and GlobalFoundries’ proven experience in high-volume manufacturing will deliver a powerful platform for innovation. Our partnership will enable customers to rapidly bring high-performance, low-power ARM technology-based designs to market on 28nm HKMG technology."

ARM Dual-Core Cortex-A9 on 28nm-HP process by GlobalFoundries

ARM Dual-Core Cortex-A9 on 28nm-HP process by GlobalFoundries. Note the maximal clock on 85C parts

The companies project the new chip manufacturing platform will enable a 40 percent increase in computing performance, a 30 percent decrease in power consumption, and a 100 percent increase in standby battery life when compared to the 40nm technology generation. The CPU target speed for the shipping version of the 28nm ARM Cortex-A9 MP dual-core will be up to 2.5GHz.

This will put ARM in direct competition with Intel. Last month, Intel announced its low-power Atom ‘Pineview’ CPU line that had two new models: the 1.8GHz single core D425, and a dual-core D525. We wonder what version of Atom, Intel will have coming out of their Fab in another year?

Last year we saw a prototype quad-core at ARM TechCon3 in 90nm silicon at 400MHz – see brief video. The blinking LED’s are connect to each core. The platform is running Windows Mobile Office 6.0. We wonder which ARM partner’s quad-core will be first with 28nm?