Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Intel have posted the announcement of the commercial release of their Ivy Bridge processor. The following extract is the story as reported at:
(sponsored by Intel)
"Intel today announced the launch of its much-anticipated “Ivy Bridge” third-generation family of Intel Core chips, the first wave of which will comprise 13 quad-core processors that are geared primarily for use in desktop computers. Ivy Bridge chips designed for use in laptops are expected to come later this year.
The first iteration of Ivy Bridge, which Intel says is 37% faster than previous-version “Sandy Bridge” chips (with 20% better performance on multi-threaded applications), represents the world’s first chips manufactured using Intel’s 22-nanometer (nm) microprocessor production technique.
The new chips use an innovative tri-gate, or “3D,” transistor design that not only enables more transistors to fit into the same amount of space, but also virtually halves power consumption compared to previous-version 32-nm Sandy Bridge chips. This differs from traditionally flat or “2D” planar gates, the latter of which switch on and off as fast as possible in order to maximize current flow when on and minimize when off. Planar gates suffer from energy leakage, however, when they are made smaller and smaller. With Intel’s tri-gate technology, vertical fins rise from the silicon base, with three gates wrapped around each fin in such a way that energy leakage is dramatically minimized while transistor density is boosted."
This is quite a performance increase if the figures actually turn out to be as claimed when the processors are used in real-world environments, although -as ever with PR- what you think of as "faster" and what they think of as "faster" may not be quite the same.Still, the machine keeps on "ticking" and "tocking". Just as interesting would be to know what the power-consumption is like in the real world, too.
The mention of 14- and 10-nm process dates later on in the piece is very interesting because at that level there will be real issues with impurities and defects, almost regardless of process. How Intel circumvent those will be even more interesting and will involve them confronting some problems in the basic physics of the solid states.
It is also quit a claim about 3D.
Now, I don't want to disparage the Marketing Department, Intel really are to be congratulated, BUT... this isn't true 3D technology. This is an image published some while back of prototypes.
The fact is that the first true 3D processors were built in the 1980s,
the design above was reported by Nudd in 1984 (Nudd GR, in Fu, "VLSI for Pattern Recognition and Image Processing", 1984)
And, although there are claims out of true 3D there and a few companies have announced plans to build them we haven't yet achieved real volume large scale volume 3D yet (even if Angela Merkel seems to think that we are! *).
There are some designs and chips around though,
These are very dense packages of a very different kind from what Intel is reporting as 3D.
Neither Intel nor ARM have comparable designs as far as I am aware. There is a whole raft of (much) smaller companies who believe, or who have stated in public, that they are a long way further down the road.
In some ways possibly even more significant was Steve Pawloski quoted as saying just three weeks or so ago:
"Pawlowski asserted that while the number of transistors cannot continue to grow forever in two dimensions... [Moore's] law can be extended by integrating multiple ... layers of ... silicon ... in a stack."
That is much more like it!
We won't even go near discussing the announcement in the Press Release last year (May 2011), reprised above, that claimed: "The 3-D Tri-Gate transistors are a reinvention of the transistor."
Anyway, congratulations to Intel, it's a great piece of engineering and use of imagination.
* The Merkel reference is: Allegedly Intel's CEO had a meeting with Merkel in Germany at the opening of some event and proudly showed off an image of Ivy Bridge, or some similar FinFET-based processor. Merkel asked if this was a 3D processor. The CEO diplomatically said that it was and ever since... Even though I presume that Intel engineers at least know otherwise.
Well, would you tell her on her own patch and in public that she was wrong? :-)