NEC Joins IBM Alliance In 32-NM Chip Development - InformationWeek

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NEC Joins IBM Alliance In 32-NM Chip Development

Under the agreement, NEC will share the work in 45-nm and 32-nm CMOS technology it is co-developing with Toshiba, which is also a member of the IBM alliance.

NEC has joined an IBM-led alliance of tech companies developing next-generation microprocessors.

NEC is the eighth major semiconductor manufacturer to join the group, which is building the core 32-nanometer CMOS integrated circuits for processors. The most advanced general-purpose CPUs today are built with 45-nanometer circuitry. By shrinking the components of a CPU, chipmakers can get more transistors on a single core, which dramatically boosts power-to-performance ratios.

Companies joining the IBM alliance agree to pool resources to share research and developments costs.

"As the 'scaling' of semiconductors to ever smaller feature sizes continues, the cost of conducting basic research and development and the associated capital investment continues to rise," Gary Patton, VP for the IBM semiconductor research & development center, said in a statement released Wednesday. "Our unique collaborative model for semiconductor research and development helps to mitigate individual investment."

The multi-year agreement with NEC means the company will share the work in 45-nm and 32-nm CMOS technology it is co-developing with Toshiba, which is also a member of the IBM alliance. NEC intends to help in the development of a common 32-nm processor core and contribute to the development and design of a system-on-chip.

"At the highest levels of technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult for semiconductor companies to differentiate their products on the core CMOS process technologies alone," Toshio Nakajima, president and chief executive of NEC Electronics. "A better course is to share the development costs of a common process platform with leading semiconductor manufacturers from around the world."

The alliance's work is conducted at IBM's 300-millimeter semiconductor fabrication facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., and at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University at Albany, a State University of New York.

The alliance believes 32-nm technology can improve performance of processors while reducing power by as much as 30% to 50% from 45-nm chips. Other members of the IBM group include Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, Freescale, Infineon Technologies AG, Samsung, and STMicroelectronics.

Hitachi and IBM in March announced a two-year agreement to collaborate on research on 32-nm technology. Hitachi, however, has not joined the alliance.

IBM co-develops the Cell microprocessor used in the PlayStation 3 video-game console. The Cell microarchitecture is jointly developed by Sony, Toshiba, and IBM.

Intel has migrated its CPU product line to 45 nm and expects to release its first 32 nm chips next year. The IBM alliance has said that it plans to have its first 32-nm chips ready to ship about the same timeframe.

Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices is expected to release its first 45-nm processors this year.

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