Intel and ARM partner for future chips

August 17, 2016 | 12:34

Tags: #10nm #fabless #fabrication #fabs #foundry #idf #idf-2016 #intel-developer-forum #intellectual-property #ip

Companies: #arm #intel

Intel and ARM, long-time rivals in the microprocessor market, have joined forces as the former looks to better utilise its 10nm foundry capacity.

Announced by ARM late last night, the deal between ARM and Intel will see ARM's physical intellectual property (IP) made available on Intel's 10nm process node under the company's Intel Custom Foundry division. 'Despite press stories, Intel and ARM have worked together for years to help enable the ecosystem, and this is just the latest milestone in that long-standing relationship,' claimed ARM's Will Abbey of the partnership. 'I see it as a natural evolution of the design ecosystem: ARM is a leader in processor and physical design, and Intel Custom Foundry is a leading integrated device manufacturer. This combination is a win-win for customers. It reinforces an ARM tenet throughout our 25-year history: to continuously enable choice and innovation inside the ARM ecosystem.'

ARM is a fabless semiconductor company, developing the IP for microprocessors and other chips and licensing it to third parties for production. Intel, by contrast, has long produced its own chips in its own fabs with no build-your-own or modified-IP options available to customers. Intel's approach has been softening in recent years, however, in particular with the launch of its Custom Foundry offering which opens its world-leading fabs to production of third-party parts - now including ARM's IP.

This is far from the first time an Intel fab has been used to build ARM hardware, however. Following a legal settlement with the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1997, Intel gained the rights to the company's ARM-based StrongARM design and began producing its own. The Intel StrongARM parts would eventually become Intel XScale before being phased out in favour of concentrating on the x86 architecture ecosystem near-exclusively.

Intel's Zane Ball, co-general manager of the Custom Foundry division, used the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) to welcome the ARM partnership, and also confirmed LG Electronics as a 10nm customer, Spreadtrum as a 14nm customer, Achronix Semiconductor and Netronome as 22nm customers, and reaffirmed Altera's work on a 14nm field-programmable gate array (FPGA) built at Intel's foundries.
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