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New SerDes chip shines spotlight on Intel's 14nm process

Posted: 26 Mar 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:14nm  semiconductor design  manufacturing 

Intel's demonstration of a general-purpose, 14nm SerDes chip seem to be statement in defence of its status as the leading semiconductor design and manufacturing to this day, despite competitors' claims that the company is caving in to short- and long-term obstacles.

The 14nm SerDes is chip designed to reduce the size of its 22nm SerDes by 40 per cent, and also to cut power consumption by 20 per cent. The 14nm SerDes design is based on that of the existing 12Gbit/s and 28Gbit/s SerDes built on Intel's 22nm SerDes Tri-gate process. The newest version of Intel's general-purpose SerDes includes 10Gbit/s to 32Gbit/s high-speed versions and 1Gbit/s to 10Gbit/s low-power versions. They support a range of standard protocols for networking and I/O to connect circuit-board components in mobile or handheld devices, including USB, PCIe, Ethernet, and 10G-KR.

The low-power version also provides low standby power and support for protocols like MIPI M-PHY and USB SuperSpeed Interchip (SSIC), which are used for low-power, high-speed connections between components inside mobile and wireless devices. The high-speed versions also address OIF, 100G Ethernet, and 32 FibreChannel for high-performance networking applications.

Intel executives tout the low-power versions as "a complete foundry offering," including integration, test configuration, and system simulation. as well as orientation and protocol configurability. The size and power-use specifications demonstrate that it's possible to shrink the space and power requirements of even complex components while increasing performance, according to statements in the announcement attributed to Mark Bohr of Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group.

It also demonstrates that "clearly, Moore's Law is alive and well," he said.

Moore's Law—a 1965 prediction that the number of transistors that will fit on a silicon chip would double every one and a half to two years without adding significantly to cost—hit a couple of major bumps at the same time Intel saw its dominance of the personal-computing market weaken as mobile-computing devices grew in popularity at the expense of PCs.

Between 2009 and 2012, CPU performance increased at between 10 per cent and 20 per cent per year, rather than the 60 per cent predicted by Moore's Law. Switching from the 32nm or 28nm nodes to the 22nm node on a 300mm wafer increases design costs by half, process development costs by 45 per cent, and fabrication costs by about 40 per cent, according to the December 2013 report by McKinsey & Co.


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