IBM has announced a deal with Samsung that will see the later manufacture 7nm (nanometer) microprocessors for IBM’s products including its Power Systems, IBM Z and LinuxONE, high-performance computing (HPC) systems, and cloud offerings, in vindication of Samsung’s commitment to the high capex technology.
“The agreement combines Samsung’s industry-leading semiconductor manufacturing with IBM’s high-performance CPU designs. This combination is being designed to drive unmatched systems performance, including acceleration, memory and I/O bandwidth, encryption and compression speed, as well as system scaling”, IBM said.
The deal represents Samsung’s first major contract for 7nm after committing to the technology earlier this year. It started production in October using a new manufacturing process called EUV lithography.
7nm: What is it Good For?
Samsung claims that compared to its 10nm FinFET predecessors, its 7nm technology “greatly reduces the process complexity with fewer layers and better yields” and also delivers up to a 40 percent increase in area efficiency with 20 percent higher performance or up to 50 percent lower power consumption.
Gartner analyst Alan Priestley told Computer Business Review in a call that he was unsurprised by the decision. He said: “There’s very limited choice in the sector for IBM. The choice was basically Samsung or TSMC. The alternative I suppose is Intel’s foundry service but it’s not got its equivalent technology ready yet.”
Qualcomm and Mediatek have postponed their 7-nanometer launches until 2019, UMC has shifted its investment into “mature” and speciality process nodes, and Globalfoundries has put its work in the field on indefinite hold. Intel’s equivalent 10nm chips are some way away from being market-ready.
Samsung’s main rival in the 7-nanometer field is TSMC. The company is currently the sole producer of Apple’s A-series processors, used in iPhones, iPads, and other products.
Today’s announcement “expands and extends” a 15-year strategic R&D partnership between the two companies which includes “many industry firsts such as the first NanoSheet Device innovation for sub 5nm, the production of the industry’s first 7nm test chip and the first High-K Metal Gate foundry manufacturing” IBM said.
“We are excited to expand our decade-long strategic relationship with IBM with our 7nm EUV process technology,” said Ryan Lee, Vice President of Foundry Marketing at Samsung Electronics, in a release late Thursday.
“This collaboration is an important milestone for Samsung’s foundry business as it signifies confidence in Samsung’s cutting-edge high performance EUV process technology.”
Samsung is a member of the OpenPOWER Foundation, a vendor ecosystem facilitating the development of IBM Power architecture-based customized servers, networking and storage for future data centers and cloud computing. Samsung is also a member of the Q Network to help advance the understanding of applications software in quantum computing for the industry.