At the Common Platform Technology Forum (CPTF), GlobalFoundries announced results from the industry’s first implementation of a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor using three-dimensional 14nm-XM FinFET transistors. Based on the standard design implementation flows and sign-off simulations using real process data, the 14nm-XM enables two times higher energy efficiency compared to 28nm-SLP process.
“These preliminary results illustrate the potential benefits of FinFET technology applied to an ARM processor-based system-on-chip (SoC). Early collaboration on manufacturing process technologies allows GlobalFoundries and ARM to identify and address SoC design challenges and reduce risks to adoption by our mutual customers,” said Dipesh Patel, executive vice president and general manager of physical IP Division at ARM.
GlobalFoundries used technical specifications from its 14nm-XM process design kit (PDK) combined with ARM Artisan standard-cell libraries and memories to release a graphic database system (GDS) file that has been used to calculate expected performance, power and area metrics. The results were compared to a silicon implementation of a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor manufactured on GlobalFoundries’ 28nm-SLP technology.
The 14nm-XM offering is based on a modular technology architecture that uses a 14nm FinFET devices combined with 20nm-LPM process back-end-of-line (BEOL) interconnect flow. Leveraging the maturity of the 20nm-LPM technology will enable a rapid time-to-market as well as a smooth transition for customers looking to tap the benefits of FinFET system-on-chips as soon as possible. According to Globalfoundries, 14-nm FinFETs have a 48nm fin pitch, which is identical to what Globalfoundries expects about Intel's FinFET fabrication process.
The implementation demonstrates the value proposition of the 14nm-XM FinFET technology for tomorrow’s mobile applications. Some of the salient aspects ascertained through the simulation are:
- High-performance, energy-efficient ARM processors implemented on 28nm-SLP typically use 12-track libraries. However at 14nm-XM FinFET technology, much higher performance and more energy-efficient ARM processors can be implemented using 9-track libraries resulting in further die-size reductions.
- At constant power, the frequency achieved with 14nm-XM technology based implementation (using 9-track libraries) is expected to be 61% faster than the frequency achieved with 28nm-SLP technology based implementation (using 12-track libraries).
- At constant frequency, the power consumed by 14nm-XM technology based implementation is expected to be 62% lower than the power consumed by 28nm-SLP technology based implementation.
- The performance-power efficiency of 14nm-XM technology based implementation (expressed as DMIPs/milliwatts) is anticipated to be more than twice that of the 28nm-SLP technology based implementation, while using half the silicon area.