There is a lot of speculation about Intel’s (INTC) upcoming 22nm process, and we finally have some hard information to share. The first product on the process, Ivy Bridge, will have other tricks too, Intel is rolling out a lot at once, but doing it carefully.
When we first broke the news about Ivy Bridge and its use of silicon interposers for on chip memory stacks, a lot of people did not understand the changes it brings. Not only will it change what a CPU is, it also can be used selectively. There are also huge risks, yield, and therefore cost being the most notable, but lifespan could also be a potential gotcha.
Intel is doing the smart thing here and putting the stacked memory only on some models, most likely the high end SKUs. This allows them to charge a premium for the parts, alleviating the high cost while bugs are worked out. If it screws up totally, they can pretend it never happened and launch with Haswell later on.
On 22nm, Intel is taking somewhat of a different approach, they are using FinFETs, but only in the cache. You can’t modify a chip enough to change transistor types once it ships, but this says to SemiAccurate’s blue ribbon panel of semiconductor experts and chimney sweeps that there was definitely a plan B up until the last minute, and one that could swapped out in a hurry.
All 22nm Intel chips will definitely have FinFETs as an option, which products they are used on is likely to be determined by how well the technology works out in practice. Regular arrays of transistors that can be replaced without touching the core is unquestionably the right way to do things, and also gives us a very unique view into Intel’s thought process.S|A