back to article IBM GATE-CRASHES chip world, boldly exclaims: 'We've cracked the 7nm barrier'

IBM has reached a major milestone in its computer chip R&D efforts – by shrinking transistor gates down to 7nm, far below today's proportions. On Thursday, Big Blue announced that it has successfully produced test chips with functional transistors using a 7nm (nanometer) process technology, and claim an industry first. …

  1. seven of five

    Boy, this would be a great time...

    Boy, this would be a great time to own a chip facto - Ah, nevermind.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Big Blue needs to push chip technology forward, and hunger is a powerful motivator."

    Really? Not detecting any signs of motivation at Intel ever since the wheels fell off AMD, despite their falling sales.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      yeppers

      Intel is realizing the brave new mobile world is going to be high volume and low margins where having the latest greatest fab just increases overhead. The only way to get the fat margins is pull an Apple and do everything yourself and hope it sells.

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        " pull an Apple and do everything yourself"

        Apple actually do very little outside of marketing and making pretty cases. Board design is outsourced to India, the chips are fabbed by various 3rd parties, everything is put together by Chinese factories, most of the software is either out-sourced or just taken from the NetBSD project, and even most of the logistics are handled by third parties. The only things they really do are design the non-functional mechanical bits, run a couple shops, and market the hell out of everything.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: " pull an Apple and do everything yourself"

          Apple is a fad at the moment. When trends change they will have nothing to fall back on.

  3. Tom 64

    TSMC @10nm?

    Hah, yeah right. The don't seem to be able to push out anything in acceptable quantity below 28nm. We'll be seeing 10nm from them much later than 2016 I suspect.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: TSMC @10nm?

      Can't push out anything smaller than 28nm? You mean other than the ~150 million A8s they've made for Apple so far in 20nm? Everyone (except Intel, because they started at a higher price point than the foundries) is reporting that cost per transistor is slightly higher when they go below 28nm, so use of those nodes has been less than originally hoped for. But customers who have a little extra to spend for the improved power/performance like Apple, don't care about that.

      Most likely the reason why Apple is rumored to be going back to Samsung for the A9 is that Samsung has their 14nm process ready which will further improve power/performance beyond 20nm. TSMC is skipping ahead to 10nm as their next main node because of the aforementioned cost issues, claiming that they've made some changes in that process to address those concerns and their 10nm node should result in lower $/transistor than previous nodes including 28nm. Of course, the $100+ million cost for a mask set at 10nm means that only pretty high volume or very cost insensitive chips will be produced in that node by anyone.

      Rumor has it Apple will have the A10 made in 10nm, which probably indicates they're going back to TSMC, unless Samsung plans to have 10nm next year also or the long-fabled idea of Intel making Apple's SoCs finally happens.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: TSMC @10nm?

        >Can't push out anything smaller than 28nm? You mean other than the ~150 million A8s they've made for Apple so far in 20nm?

        Good luck getting in front of Apple instead of praying for their sloppy seconds which is probably more the position the first posters company was in, ie the little guy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TSMC @10nm?

        The inflexibility of the foundries is a lot of the reason I have job working for a somewhat dated internal fab owned by my company. If you are a small player then its very hard to guarantee you will be able to always meet demand using foundries as demand tends to spike for everyone at once and size usually does matter who get serviced first.

  4. frank ly

    "-take that, Moore's Law"

    As in, take that and run with it, Moore's Law.

  5. Nigel 11

    Not for VLSI CPUS?

    The assumption seems to be that IBM is interested in this for making CPUs.

    I would guess that the first application of very small (and therefore very fast) 7nm transistors will be in specialist datacomms devices (things like 100Gbit Ethernet). It's also probably true that in that field, billions of transistors aren't needed. Mere thousands might be useful, mere millions certainly would be.

    There's a hint, in that they are talking about SiGe, not plain Si. SiGe is more difficult (but intrinsically faster).

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Not for VLSI CPUS?

      An excellent point.

      Crazy-fast transistors would perhaps also be applicable to THz RF tech.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The node drop is over

    Everyone in the semi Biz is aware that next gen conductors will require different processes and materials and they are continuing to develop these. There is so little gain in node drop since ~32 Nm that it's all pretty much just hype for the modest power reduction gains.

  7. 404 Silver badge

    Sister site?

    Not http://www.therockalltimes.co.uk?

    hmmm - what happened?

  8. Rik Myslewski
    Thumb Up

    EUV talk

    If you enjoy chippy discussions, the Comments section of this UK article is worth a read, especially for the weigh-ins of some EUV engineers.

  9. dan1980

    Perhaps just me but when I saw SiGe/Silicon-Germanium, I got the urge to put both my Fulltone '70 BC-108C Silicon Fuzz and Hartman Vintage Germanium Fuzz back on my board and see if I could get my amp to go into meltdown.

    Maybe I'll add my Black Arts Pharaoh and LSTR to the mix and see if it starts raining frogs. But then my Blackout Effectors Musket would feel left out. I'll be a bit worried for my brother but I'm a middle child - I'll be alright.

    Sorry - what was this article about again?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope they do something about the increasing number of hardware bugs in their CPU's. I have an Ivy Bridge processor with a broken RDRAND instruction because some dipdodo in Intel pressed the wrong button.

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