Intel’s New Architecture Extends and Enables New Markets

One of the knocks on Intel over the last 10 years is that their lack of an ultra-low voltage processor has kept them participating in the smartphone market and new mobile markets where a processor must have a power envelope under 5 watts.

This has been a sore spot for Intel as the ARM world locked up most of the true mobile market and is now, thanks to Qualcomm and their new 8CX processor and computing platform, even going after laptop designs that need very low voltage, yet significant power to run these laptops for at least 20 hours a day.

This morning, Intel made public a new chip architecture called “Foveros” that now allows Intel to deliver mobile chips that deliver a power draw as low as 2 watts.

Here is the key part of this Intel announcement:

“Industry-First 3D Stacking of Logic Chips: Intel demonstrated a new 3D packaging technology, called “Foveros,” which for the first time brings the benefits of 3D stacking to enable logic-on-logic integration.

Foveros paves the way for devices and systems combining high-performance, high-density, and low-power silicon process technologies. Foveros is expected to extend die stacking beyond traditional passive interposers and stacked memory to high-performance logic, such as CPU, graphics and AI processors for the first time.

The technology provides tremendous flexibility as designers seek to “mix and match” technology IP blocks with various memory and I/O elements in new device form factors. It will allow products to be broken up into smaller “chiplets,” where I/O, SRAM and power delivery circuits can be fabricated in a base die and high-performance logic chiplets are stacked on top.

Intel expects to launch a range of products using Foveros beginning in the second half of 2019. The first Foveros product will combine a high-performance 10nm compute-stacked chiplet with a low-power 22FFL base die. It will enable the combination of world-class performance and power efficiency in a small form factor. Foveros is the next leap forward following Intel’s breakthrough Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) 2D packaging technology, introduced in 2018.”

In the scheme of things, this new architecture that will allow Intel to create ultra-low voltage processors for a plethora of mobile devices is a big deal. Although Intel has lost the smartphone market forever, the new “Foveros” designed processors could be used in all types of new mobile computing devices in the coming years.

While the details of the actual processors that can be created by the Foveros architecture were skimpy at best, Intel execs did tell me that they see this chip as being one that could be used in something like an always-connected PC as well as new types of mobile form factors. At the moment, Intel and some of their ODM partners are even creating reference designs of all kinds of new mobile devices the could benefit from one of these Fovero’s based processors.

While Intel has had great success in servers and the PC market is growing again, if only slightly, being able to do a low voltage chip using the Foveros architecture is good news for Intel. And getting design wins for new and innovative mobile devices could help Intel make up some ground they lost in the smartphone market and allow them to go head to head with some ARM-based solutions that also have aimed at new and innovative mobile form factors in the works.

Lastly, one of the more clever things about Intel’s approach with Foveros is that in building a hybrid solution that seamlessly blends different chip architectures together they have created a product that will play nicely with others who want to build their own silicon. This, to me, is an admission of Intel that the world will not run on Intel Architecture as they had previously assumed and thus embraces and enables their desires for deeper competitive advantage and differentiation. To give you a practical example, this new Foveros architecture design is likely how Apple will build an Arm-based Mac. It would allow Apple to use an Intel CPU for the things x86 does well with macOS today but will play nicely with any additional silicon by way of GPU, accelerators, neural processing units, etc., Apple wants to build.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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