ARM & GlobalFoundries Demo 2.5GHz+ 28nm Cortex A9 & 20nm Test Vehicleby Anand Lal Shimpi on December 14, 2011 7:34 PM EST
GlobalFoundries sent over a PR showcasing two significant milestones in its march towards being a major foundry player in the mobile space. The first is the announcement of a dual-core Cortex A9 test chip built on GF's 28nm HPP (High Performance Plus) process. The test chip operates at 2.5GHz although it is apparently capable of higher frequencies according to the ambiguous statement from GF. The chip's operating voltage is a low 0.85V. Both the frequency and voltage targets are good for a Cortex A9 implementation, although again this is only a test chip.
Many companies are expecting to break the 2GHz barrier on high performance 28nm processes starting late next year and moving on into 2013. These designs aren't likely to be used in smartphones, but instead we'll see them in tablets and netbook replacements (e.g. Windows 8 on ARM).
The second milestone is the the tapeout of a 20nm Technology Qualification Vehicle (TQV). This is a test chip designed to, well, test GF's 20nm process as it would be used by a vendor for producing Cortex A9 based SoCs. The move to 20nm is much further out for GF, but there's lots of development work prior to release that necessitates the production of test silicon.
Both announcements are designed to showcase GF's close partnership with ARM, as well as its continued momentum in the manufacturing space. Process technology in general is going to become a very important piece of the puzzle in the mobile space, particularly as companies like Intel enter the market next year.