AMD & SOI: Winning with Performance/Watt/Dollar

Nick Kepler, vice president of logic technology development at AMD talks about the role of SOI in the company’s strategy.


Advanced Substrate News: How important is SOI to your strategy?

Nick Kepler: SOI is an important part of AMD’s product strategy. We are currently utilizing it for our entire line of 90nm AMD64 products. AMD uses SOI because it enables significant performance: power ratio increases for our products. This performance:power headroom provides us with greater flexibility to boost performance or lower power, or both, for new processors. This strengthens our AMD64 line of products. We intend to continue to reap the benefits of SOI in the future.

ASN: Are there other advantages of SOI you can site?

NK: The top advantages of SOI for AMD—increased performance:power ratio—translate to more product speed and/or less heat generation (requiring less cooling). We have also seen better reliability with SOI, for example, due to latch-up and soft error immunity.

ASN: Can you comment on SOI advantages for your customers?

NK: SOI, when combined with our advanced transistor designs and our high-performance, power-efficient AMD64 architecture, provides a number of benefits to our customers, including power efficiency (requiring less heat sinks for the same speed processor), better performance-perwatt ratios, reliability and investment protection.

ASN: What about for end users?

NK: AMD is committed to delivering customer-centric innovations, for example, innovations that enable power-efficient processing for end users. SOI and AMD PowerNow! technology with OPM are separate, yet synergistic technologies that both enable reduced power consumption.

ASN: Would you say that your decision to move to SOI has been good for the bottom line?

NK: As a component of the AMD64 processor architecture, SOI has aided AMD in delivering high-performance, power-efficient solutions that meet customer needs. Demand for our products continues to increase, resulting in successful market share gains.

ASN: Let’s talk about designing in SOI.

NK: Good SOI design requires additional knowledge compared to bulk design. This knowledge requires a learning curve that is well behind the AMD design teams. AMD designers are now extremely comfortable working with SOI and are introducing new improvements in transistor technology on SOI wafers on a quarterly basis.

ASN: You recently licensed ISi’s ZRAM technology—what advantages do you hope it will give you?

NK: We’re looking at Z-RAM as a strong candidate for possibly providing dense cache options in future AMD products.

ASN: You clearly assembled a very talented team from the start. Can you comment on the importance of that team as you move forward?

NK: We are fortunate to have some of the world’s best designers working in AMD facilities around the globe. Our joint process technology research and development agreement with IBM has further bolstered our brain trust. AMD’s manufacturing fabs in Germany continue to grow and provide industry-leading technology and manufacturing capability. Collectively, our design, process technology, and manufacturing teams will continue to push the boundaries of transistor and processor design to deliver high-performance, energy-efficient solutions for our customers.

Engineers on the cleanroom bridge with 300 mm SOI wafers from AMD Fab 36 and Fab 30. Copyright: Sven Döring/AMD (May 2006)

ASN: Can you tell us a little about the challenges you’re attacking with IBM?

NK: AMD and IBM reached
an agreement in 2002 to jointly develop leading process technologies for future high-performance processors. In 2005, that agreement was expanded to include both research and development. The partnership was created with a clear, common objective: to develop industry-leading SOI process technologies targeted for high-performance, power-efficient microprocessors. It has been a tremendous success, with innovative new technologies jointly developed by the two companies already shipping in products.

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