Monday, May 9, 2011

Intel's "three dimensional" transistor architecture

Over at Real World Technologies, David Kanter has a nice short writeup of some background information about Intel's new Tri-Gate Transistors, including some analysis of the possible implications for the near-term.

Kanter observes that it is still early days with this new technology, and that right now it holds a lot of promise, but not much actual results:

The tri-gate transistors are a tremendous breakthrough in performance and the 22nm process also improves density by the traditional 2X. But it is important to realize that the performance gains Intel is citing are not simultaneous. Transistors will not get 37% faster, 50% more efficient and reduce leakage by 10X all at the same time; nor will entire chips see the same gains as the individual transistor level. Intel’s circuit designers will have to pick and choose how to use the newfound advantages throughout each chip to achieve the best overall results, given the product.

Kanter notes that Intel is making tremendous investments in this area, and suggests a possible strategy behind that work:

Intel is planning to build or upgrade five 22nm fabs in Oregon, Arizon and Israel throughout 2011 and 2012. Presently, they have four 32nm fabs in production. The increase in capacity is clearly intended for expansion into the embedded and mobile markets. While smartphones may be an uncertain proposition, Intel is doing well in other embedded areas and looking to continue that growth. This creates risk, should their plans for the handset market go awry, but in the case of owning a fab – there is no opportunity without risk.

Go go hardware guys! Keep making the hardware better, becase we software types still have lots more code that we are writing!

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