IBM gives chips a tech boost

IBM is set to use a new processor technology that is claimed to improve performance and reduce power consumption on chips.


IBM is set to use a new processor technology that is claime to improve performance and reduce power consumption on chips.

The technology, called high-k/metal gate has already been used by Intel, and is said to boost performance by up to 30 percent and reduces power consumption by up to 50 percent on chips manufactured using the 32-nanometre process. This compares to chips manufactured using the 45-nanometre process operating at the similar voltage, according to IBM's benchmarks.

For example, when a 45-nm process chip operating at 1.1 volts is scaled to the 32-nm process with high-k metal gate technology it will have a 24 percent increase in speed and a 40 percent reduction in power consumption, said Mukesh Khare, senior manager at IBM's microelectronics division. If the voltage is dropped to 0.95 volts, the chip has an 18 percent increase in speed and a 45 percent reduction in power consumption.

The company is shipping an evaluation kit that includes chip models and shows customers how to design chips using the high-k/metal gate technology, Khare said. High-k/metal gate technology uses material to reduce electricity leaks on chips. IBM said it may incorporate the technology when it starts volume production of chips using the 32-nm process - this is scheduled for late 2009.

For computing devices to deliver power savings and performance gains, chip manufacturers are consistently upgrading manufacturing technologies. Intel last year started incorporating high-k/metal gate technology when it began manufacturing chips using the 45-nm process. Intel's chip rival, AMD, does not use high-k metal gate technology in chips.

IBM made the announcement on high-k/metal gate with its partners, Chartered Semiconductor, Freescale Semiconductor, Infineon Technologies, Samsung, STMicroelectronics and Toshiba. IBM has a manufacturing partnership with AMD, and although AMD wasn't part of the official announcement, it will have access to the new technology, Khare said.

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