Intel Readies Itself to Offer its 14nm Process to Foundry Customers

It’s getting its partners in order to being taking designs…

INtel fabs 14nm

Today Intel announced three separate but related partnerships with Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, and Cadence to enable its foundry customers to begin designing chips for Intel’s 14nm process. Intel’s 14nm process now supports Synopsys’ Galaxy Design Platform and all of the tools and IP that go with said platform. Intel’s prospective customers can now use Synopsys’ tool set to being designing their products for Intel’s 14nm process. According to the press release Intel’s 14nm Tri-gate transistors required quite a bit of work to take advantage of, but through their partnership with Synopsys they can now offer optimized blocks like memory controllers.

Mentor Graphics for its part partnered with Intel to enable the use of its design tools to build on Intel’s 14nm process. For Intel this is a market share play as many companies are heavily invested in using Mentor Graphics software products to do layout and verification at other foundries.

Whereas Synopsys’ and Mentor’s products are ready now Cadence Design System’s tools aren’t quite ready yet for Intel’s 14nm process. But work is well underway and the two companies are promising to deliver a low power DDR4 controller block designed for Intel’s 14nm process along with Cadence’s design tools.

What we have today is a show of support from Intel’s partner’s for Intel’s efforts to offer its 14nm process node as a contract foundry. Based on the wording of Intel press releases and the types of optimized IP block that these partners are going to be offering on Intel process it’s clear that Intel is trying to offer its foundry services to mobile chip makers.

That said it’s somewhat baffling to see Intel’s foundry wing try and court mobile chip makers as opposed to the FPGA and other niche chips makers that we’ve seen in the past. Especially as Intel appears to be aggressively moving new products into the exact markets where building a low power chip on Intel’s 14nm process would be a competitive advantage. Although it make some sense given that Intel has a lot of extra foundry capacity due to the down turn of the PC market and is willing to work with would-be competitors on products like its recent partnership with Rockchip.

Largely though Intel is reiterating its commitment to becoming a world-class foundry for fabless chipmakers today. Customers now have access to the right tool to build on Intel 14nm process and the company seems to be targeting companies with large enough chip volumes to fill up some of Intel’s empty fabs. This is a positive move for Intel and it again demonstrates the willingness of Intel management to try to make money wherever possible. How far Intel’s willing to go in fabbing chips for its competitors remains to be seen, but these announcements certainly raise some interesting possibilities.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.