Foveros: Inside Intel’s new ‘chiplet’ 3D packaging technology

13 Dec 2018

Image: © emretopdemir/

Intel made a series of major announcements this week, unveiling a suite of new technologies to power PCs and other smart devices.

On Tuesday (11 December), Intel’s Architecture Day was the backdrop for a series of new announcements by the chipmaker.

Six strategic innovation pillars were mentioned at the launch: advanced manufacturing processes and packaging; faster memory; interconnects; new architectures for technology such as AI; embedded security features; and software tools to enable developers to address Intel silicon.

What is Foveros?

In a major strategic development, the company unveiled Foveros, a manufacturing technology it said will help boost the performance of a variety of chips, from core processors to AI-specific chips.

According to Gizmodo, the company has essentially figured out a way to build CPUs vertically, as opposed to the more traditional CPU x-y axis layout.

The concept, 3D stacking, has already been seen in high-bandwidth memory, but this version is CPU-specific. Intel hopes to use Foveros in a new chip, which will have a 10nm chiplet stacked on to a low-power die.

The company said careful consideration went into the design of the chips to ensure they don’t overheat and remain a workable height.

A new microarchitecture

The company also announced Sunny Cove, its next-generation CPU microarchitecture, which will be available on both Xeon server and Core client markets. It will allow the execution of more operations in parallel, and reduce latency.

Larger buffers and caches will optimise data-centric workloads. The company also said it would increase performance for run-of-the-mill computing, as well as help more specialised workloads in areas such as AI and cryptography.

Since 2015, Intel processors under Core and Xeon branding were based around Skylake architecture, with little difference between variations. Sunny Cove is being built on a 10nm manufacturing process.

Intel also announced a new round of integrated graphics, Gen11. This features 64 enhanced execution units and has been designed to break the teraflop power barrier. According to the company, the architecture will increase game playability. “The new integrated graphics architecture is expected to double the computing performance-per-clock compared to Intel Gen9 graphics.”

Given the Meltdown and Spectre flaws of 2017, the new hardware will have mitigations for strains of the bugs and they are likely to be in products by late next year. While the company did not specify the exact devices that Foveros-stacked chips would be built into, they said everything from mobile devices to data centres would feature the processors over time.

Raja Koduri, senior vice-president of the company’s core and visual computing division, said: “The rising demand for computing provides us with a chance to change, mould and expand Intel in an unprecedented manner.

“We have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but also to our customers who trust us with their businesses, critical data and computing needs, to reinvent our products and strategy for developing technologies for the next decade and beyond.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects