IBM Reaches 7nm Milestone for Chips
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy, said it's important for the industry that IBM continues to innovate around chip technology and to help drive Moore's Law. However, he said IBM "has a track record" of coming out with early announcements around chip innovation, and that there is still a lot that needs to be done to make the jump from having such a test chip to actually having processors running in systems. Moorhead pointed to IBM's announcement in 2012 regarding carbon nanotubes as a foundation of future chips. "Where are the carbon nanotubes?" he asked. The announcement regarding the 7nm test node also doesn't mean that IBM has jumped ahead of Intel in the chip development field, Moorhead told eWEEK. "It's not a milestone from a competitive standpoint," he said. "My hunch is that Intel probably has their own" 7nm test chips working.Plus, Intel has an advantage on IBM in that it not only does its own chip design and development, but also manufacturing, Moorhead said. IBM last year sold its manufacturing business to Globalfoundries for $1.5 billion, which means there are other parties now that will have a say when the chips get to market. IBM no longer has complete control over the end-to-end process. "You have to judge the dates," he said. "They don't own the dates anymore." While IBM has sold its chip manufacturing business to Globalfoundries, it isn't backing off from chip development. The company last year announced it is spending $3 billion over five years. At the time, officials talked about driving to 7nm. Now they're starting to talk about 5nm.
Intel currently is rolling out 14nm processors for everything from smartphones and devices for the Internet of things (IoT) to high-end servers, and is gearing up for 10nm chips that will start to roll out next year. Intel researchers also have started talking about 7nm processors that will come in 2018, and will also use such new materials as EUV.