IBM puts chip innovations to market


8 Jun 2007

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IBM has announced it is bringing high-end chip technology to the mass market with the introduction of a new product featuring silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology previously used only in high-end servers.

IBM’s new Cu-45 high-performance custom chip (ASIC) represents the commercial introduction of SOI technology into communications, consumer and other major market segments, IBM said.

It also announced that the Cu-45HP ASIC offering is the first-ever product application of a new generation of embedded dynamic random access memory (eDRAM) implemented in SOI technology. This breakthrough technology was introduced earlier this year at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC).

ASIC’s are specialised semiconductors designed to allow clients to differentiate their products in mainstream industries such as aerospace, defence, storage, consumer electronics, networking devices and other image-intensive, multimedia applications. A chip designed solely to run in a mobile phone is an example of an ASIC.

SOI technology – which has been part of six generations of Power Architecture processors in IBM server products – provides up to a 30pc performance boost compared with industry standard complementary metal-oxide (CMOS) technology, IBM said.

IBM’s new 45-nanometre eDRAM technology implemented in SOI can dramatically improve on-processor memory performance in about one third the space with one fifth the standby power of conventional SRAM (static random access memory).

The company has also announced three additional digital and analogue semiconductor products targeting mobile handsets and other wireless products. The SiGE BiCMOS 5PAe can lower costs for clients that are designing power amplifiers for cell phones, wireless phones and WLAN/WiMax applications; the CMOS 11LP is optimised for lower device leakage for handset design; and the SiGe BICMOS6WL is a cheaper version of existing IBM technology for use in mobile phones, WLAN and global positioning devices, according to IBM.

“The market can now take advantage of chip products that harness IBM’s leadership in research and innovation,” said Tom Reeves, vice-president, IBM GES Semiconductors and Services. “From the first ASIC SOI chip at 45-nanometre to the use of the new eDRAM and chip-integration technologies, the advances that are part of these new semiconductor offerings enable flexible, cost-effective products that enhance the value of customised IBM semiconductor solutions.”

IBM SiGe BiCMOS 6WL design kits are available now. IBM plans to have SiGe BiCMOS 5PAe design kits available this summer and first design kits for CMOS 11LP Foundry products later in 2007. The planned availability date for Cu-45HP ASIC is in early 2008.

By Niall Byrne