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  • GlobalFoundries Visit – Part 2 – Waking the Sleeping Giant

    In part one of this blog I described a visit to GlobalFoundries (GF) Fab 8 site in Malta New York by Daniel Nenni and myself. In this part 2 of the blog, I will describe the second day of our trip when we visited Fab 9 in Burlington Vermont. Before we got to Burlington I thought it would likely be a letdown after seeing the state-of-the-art Fab 8, but Burlington turned out to be just as interesting as Malta.

    Article: The Black Swan that Catapulted Intel into 2012-ibm-fab-9-burlington-vermont.jpg

    Before describing the Burlington site visit I should set the stage by describing GF’s business unit structure. GF is organizes into three business units:
    1. CMOS Platforms – GF side of the business comes from the AMD and Chartered acquisitions and GF although the IBM acquisition adds technology.
    2. Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC) – comes from the IBM acquisition.
    3. RF – comes primarily from the IBM acquisition although GF has some presence here as well from the Singapore site (former Chartered).

    Burlington Site
    Burlington is another large site and our visit began by working our way through two security gates and finding the lobby (actually the site is in Essex Junction near Burlington).

    The first briefing of the day was by Janette Bombardier, the site Vice President and location manager. The Burlington site has been in operation since 1957 and is the largest private employer in Vermont. The site uses 3.2 million gallons of water per day including 2 million gallons per day of ultra-pure water. The water comes from lake Champlain and waste water treatment is done on-site. They have reduced their water usage by 30% over the last decade. The site is fed by 150 Kilovolt power lines and they have their own smart grid delivering peak power of 65 megawatts, they have reduced peak power by 7 megawatts. There are 60,000 sensors and meters monitoring the site. The Essex Junction site and the Williston site are a combined 750 acres. Janette was very proud of the sites environmental record and highlighted the many awards they have won in this area (see Janette’s presentation at the end of this section for a list of the awards). In my experience older fab sites have not always had the best environmental record and it was refreshing to see an older site with an environmental focus.

    The Burlington site hosts several different functions:
    • Burlington is the first trusted foundry for the United States Government. Buildings 970 and 973 are now run as one 200mm wafer fab with 40,000 wafers per month capacity after a $55 million dollar capacity expansion announced the day after our visit. The fab includes over 1,400 tools and supports 30 different unique flows.
    • Burlington has a mask shop on-site with 70 tools, approximately 180 employees, and working with their partner - Toppan they produce 15,000 to 18,000 masks per year.
    • Test and final product distribution for the former IBM microelectronics division is also done at Burlington.
    • There are quality labs and information technology on site.
    • A large office complex hosts General Dynamics, the Vermont State Department of Children and Families and some IBM functions as well as GF activities.
    • A 300KW solar array test bed – the Vermont Photovoltaic Regional Test Center in partnership with Sandia and the DOE. The test bed gives the partnership a cold weather/cloudy location test capability.

    In terms of the site history:
    • 1957 to 1990 – wire relays – captive logic and memory supplier to IBM, first 200mm wafer fab in the world. Five generations of wafer sizes (presumably 3”, 100mm, 125mm, 150mm and 200mm).
    • 1990 to 2000 – sole source for IBM processes, entered OEM business for fab fill, churn of equipment and facility, DRAM manufacturing followed by logic. IBM exited the DRAM business in the late 90s.
    • 2000 to 2003 – final new server ramp, significant downsizing, future viability dependent on developing and executing a new business model.
    • 2003- 2006 – OEM business in ASICs, >50% factory load, first trusted foundry.
    • 2007 to 2010 – ASIC OEM business declined, started new RF business (7RFSOI and SiGe5PSAe) focused on cell phone Front End Module.
    • 2011 to 2014 successful RF business.

    The Burlington site products go into HDTV, Video, DVD, laptops, Automotive, Printers, etc. They Build design for others, some as a foundry and some as ASICs with much earlier involvement.

    They have ASIC design tools that are really good if you need tight timing and complex designs. They are more focused on communications and consumer now, more cost sensitive.

    The Burlington Fab 9 briefing deck is HERE.


    ASIC Group

    Our second briefing of the day was given by Jim Rogers director of ASICs. Also present were Duncan Needler from Strategic Marketing and Mark Kimely and Paul Zilkowski.

    I have to admit that I though ASICs were kind of a dying business and no longer very interesting but I was about to learn differently. In fact I now think this part of the IBM Microelectronics acquisition could be hugely important to GF!

    IBM has been the number one ASIC supplier into networking for over ten years. They don’t disclose their revenue but noted they are a multiple of eSilicon (a $250 million US dollar business, Faraday (UMC tie in) or GUC (TSMC tie in) in size (Gartner reportedly estimates that the former IBM ASIC business is over $1 billion US dollars).

    Networking customers are power and cooling limited. They have fixed power budgets for each application and want to get more performance within the power budget. Designs are becoming more parallel, some frequency scaling as well but parallelism is growing and even with node shrinks die sizes are growing. They are focused on MIPs/watt.

    Their first ASIC offering was at 500nm. They have high performance IP, unique memory options, they are an ARM licensee now (they have been for a while but didn’t announce it). With the GF acquisition they have more scale to work with, Malta is a lot bigger than East Fiskill (Fab 10, the former IBM 300mm site). They have been doing very large ASICs for external customers plus IBM processors (they also did networking for IBM when IBM was still in networking). They have pre verified IP and test and insertion so the entire system works. They typically sell packaged - tested parts with a margin, they are sort of intermediate between a foundry and a standard product. They will sometime sell tested wafers. Wafer sort is done internally but they use Outsourced Assembly And Test (OSAT) for packaging and class test. They can take a hand off at several levels, turnkey or net lists, and then they do the physical design.

    The ASIC group is currently doing ASICs in 90nm and 65nm bulk and 45nm and 32nm Partially depleted SOI technologies (PDSOI). They have a 30G backplane and 56G is available to design now as well as PCI-express gen 4 (Dan noted that other suppliers are really struggling trying to get 56G working). They also offer Ternary Content Addressable Memory (TCAM) where memory is accessed by data and not by address; this is very useful for networking tables (TCAM uses a special bit cell). They also have smaller SRAM array capability than other IP vendors or TSMC, “best dense SRAM macro in the industry”. They have more that 50 ASICs with TCAM in production (6 generations). They can make the largest TCAMs work (Dan noted that in his experience it is hard to make TCAM work). They supply all of the major network companies and have been the #1 ASIC supplier for wired communications for 11 years. They think having IP, fab, and technology development under one roof is an advantage. They have global design centers, have done some of the industry’s most complex ASICs and have an outstanding record of success.

    As interesting as all of that is, they then went on to describe their new FX-14 ASIC offering utilizing the 14LLP process manufactured at Fab 8 in Malta. As an outside observer one concern I had for GF was how they would differentiate themselves from Samsung and become more than a second source when they are licensing the 14nm process from Samsung. While we were in Burlington we heard the AMD has committed to 14LPP giving GF a volume first source customer to drive yield learning. Now GF will also have a pipeline of ASIC designs on 14LPP from the ASIC group. This announcement combines world class 56G SERDES and multi ARM core generation support, high capacity state-of-the-art 14nm manufacturing at Fab 8 on a cost effective 14LLP process with over a decade of ASIC industry leadership!

    The 14LPP FinFET architecture provides more performance per watt for connect, compute and store application and fewer watts per GHz for mobility and wireless applications. 14LLP was qualified in Q3 of 2015 and will be in volume production in 2016. 14LPP offers a 55% area reduction, up to a 50% power reduction and 85% less leakage than the 32nm ASIC technology. 14LPP will be supported with industry standard tools (IBM was proprietary tool based), there will be multiple Vt libraries for power/performance tradeoffs and an expanded IP portfolio. FX-14 will offer 64 bit ARM cores including A53 and A72 as well as 32 bit cores, 56Gbps and multiple 30Gbps SERDES designs, leading edge TCAM and the industry’s highest density and performance SRAM.

    To my view the combination of the expertise of the IBM ASIC team with the GF manufacturing scale and improved access to IP and design tools offers a very powerful combination. Jim Roger’s apparently feels the same way because he smiled from ear to ear through his entire presentation.

    The FX-14 briefing deck is available HERE.

    RF Group
    Bami Bastani, the senior VP for RF gave us a briefing on the RF business. Also present was Stephen Lace RF Chief Technical Executive, product managers Peter and Christine and Duncan Needler from Strategic Marketing.

    The front end of cell phones has to support a variety of different frequency bands and standards for 3G and 4G data and voice. The Front End Modules (FEM) may include multiple antennas with antenna tuning for each antenna, antenna switching, multiple filters and multiple power amplifiers. IBM’s combination of Partially Depleted SOI technology (PDSOI) and Silicon Germanium (SiGe) technology have made them a huge player in this space. RF SOI utilizing PDSOI has emerged as the technology for RF switches as well as some antenna tuning and a small amount of power amplifier applications. SiGe is used to address power amplifiers and also automotive radar. IBM’s RF SOI technology has shipped over 17 billion parts and the SiGe technology has shipped over 3 billon products although power amplifiers are still dominated by Gallium Arsenide (GaAs). SiGe power amplifiers are also used in WiFi modules for cell phones. They 65nm RFCMOS typically used for WiFi don’t have a good enough power amplifier and they are often bypassed for a SiGe power amplifier. RF SOI devices reduce parasitics, provide higher Q – lower loss, increased isolation and linearity and better economics than III-V solutions such as GaAs. RF SOI can be produced on 200mm and even 300mm wafers whereas GaAs is still on 150mm wafers.

    The acquisition of IBM microelectronics by GF provides a global network for RF as well as increased investment. While we were in Burlington we heard about a $55 million dollar investment in additional capacity in the Burlington fab. GF’s Singapore site also has 200mm and 300mm capacity for RF. GF has bene doing some 300mm RF in Singapore for capacity reasons but they don’t see it as more economical than 200mm due to substrate cost and depreciations. Moving forward to 5G and millimeter wave applications 45nm RF SOI likely on 300mmm will offer the next generation solutions. They will still support 180nm/130nm on 200mm for 3G and 4G and then do 45nm for 5G.

    The current market for RF SOI is estimated to be approximately 60,000 wafers per month primarily driven by switch and tuner applications.

    By producing RF on SOI substrates logic can be integrated onto the same product. The RF business is a classic foundry business with customers doing their own designs and buying wafers from GF. GF does provide some simple standard cells. GF RF business is the leader in the market shipping primarily from Burlington with some capacity coming from Altis in Europe (former IBM site) and Singapore ramping up.

    The RF business offers another growth path for GF.

    The RF presentation is available HERE.

    Mask shop
    We ended our visit to Burlington with a tour of the mask shop. The mask shop supports masks sets all the way down to 7nm and has EUV mask capability. Currently the mask shop supports Burlington (Fab 9) and East Fishkill (Fab 10) but they are now working on masks for Fab 8 and may support provide support to other GF sites as well.

    Conclusion
    Often acquisitions are touted as providing “synergies” that are hard to envision and even harder to realize. After visiting Fab 8 in Malta and Fab 9 in Burlington the potential synergies are very clear.
    • The acquisition of an experienced IBM development team offers GF the potential to develop their own 10nm and 7nm technologies as opposed to licensing technologies from others as they had to do at 14nm.
    • The former IBM ASIC business is a leading supplier of ASICs for networking. The combination with GF provides more advanced process technology, manufacturing scale and a parent company in the same business. There is a potential here to make the ASIC business stronger while providing GF with a customer stream for the 14LLP technology.
    • The former IBM RF has been capacity and resource constrained. They now have access to greater resources and capacity to drive into 5G and continue to support 3G and 4G.


    The bottom line to me is the acquiring the IBM microelectronics business fill gaps in GF and in the IBM businesses and offers the opportunity for real and lasting synergy. Of course as we discussed in part one execution will be key. Watching how this plays out over the next couple of years will be fascinating and will ultimately determine whether GF can become a truly viable leading edge pure play foundry.

    You can read part one HERE.