Intel Opens Foundry For Off-The-Shelf ARM Core Tech

Intel Opens Foundry For Off-The-Shelf ARM Core Tech
Image Credit: Intel

On Tuesday, Intel announced many things during its developer conference, including support for 4K movie playback on Kaby Lake processors, the new Knowledge Builder toolset for Curie module developers, and Project Alloy. The chip making giant also disclosed that its upcoming 10nm FinFET design platform will be open to foundry customers who want to build mobile processors based on architecture owned by ARM.

ARM licenses using ARM Core tech not supported

Zane Ball, co-general manager of Intel Custom Foundry, made the announcement. Right now ARM-based mobile processor makers rely on foundries provided by Samsung and TSMC to produce their chips. Now a third option will become available with Intel entering the ARM processor foundry game, generating a good amount of change for the chip maker in the process.

Intel’s foundry will provide licensed customers access to ARM’s off-the-shelf Artisan physical IP, including POP IP. ARM licensees who use customized ARM core technology in their mobile processors will likely not be supported by Intel’s foundry.

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Ball said, “Optimizing this technology for Intel’s 10nm process means that foundry customers can take advantage of the IP to achieve best-in-class PPA (power, performance, area) for power-efficient, high-performance implementations of their designs for mobile, IoT and other consumer applications.”

Consider a Physical IP as a physical processor core layout owned by ARM. There are actually four layouts that come under the Artisan brand, spanning the low-power platform, the performance platform, the mainstream platform, and high-speed connectivity for PCI-express cards, memory cards, and storage drives. ARM owns various processor core designs. Mobile chip making companies use these cores in their mobile processor (SoC or system-on-chip) designs, which are produced at a foundry.

 A win for both Intel and ARM

ARM’s POP IP is short for its Processor Optimization Pack intellectual property, which it first used in 2010 in its Cortex A9 processor core design. This pack generally lets mobile chip designers using ARM-based processor cores utilize the least amount of power or increase the performance of the chip. In addition, mobile chip designers can utilize this pack to make a balanced solution that’s best for their specific application.

In a separate announcement, ARM’s Will Abbey said, “The value of POP technology for an ARM core on the Intel 10nm process is tremendous, as it will allow for quicker knowledge transfer, enabling customers to lower their risk in implementing the most advanced ARM cores on Intel’s leading-edge process technology.”

Intel revealed that LG Electronics will use its Custom Foundry’s 10nm design platform to develop a mobile platform.

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