It might not be as well publicized as Micheal Phelps' race to 14 gold medals, but there's another kind of race going on in the chip industry, and that's to see who will be the first to reach 22nm. But it might not be Intel leading the way, and instead it looks as though IBM may be emerging as the front runner.
Unlike the path to 45nm and 32nm, getting to 22nm presents some significant challenges for chip makers, one of which includes getting the circuits "printed" in a process called photolithography. As IBM engineer Subu Iyer notes, "Once the wavelength of light becomes comparable to the size of the thing you're trying to print, things break down. The challenge is to use a light wavelength of 192 nanometers because 'extreme ultraviolet' radiation is still impractical."
Iyer went on to say that in terms of physics, getting to 22nm is a tall order requiring a tremendous amount of computation. To help with that, IBM has developed what it's calling the Computational Scaling (CS) initiative, which includes support from several of IBM's partners. If nothing else, this collaboration puts added heat on Intel, who downplayed IBM's foray into 22nm earlier this summer.
Might IBM beat Intel to the punch? Hit the jump and make your prediction.
Tom’s Hardware reports that IBM and its chip development partners (which includes AMD), revealed that they beat Intel in creating the first functional 22 nm SRAM cell. Unfortunately 22nm processors are still 3 years out. This will put the pressure on Intel to make sure it keeps its manufacturing lead. Intel presented its first 32 nm SRAM cell wafer last September and is not expected to show 22 nm SRAM cells for another year.
While for the foreseeable future it seems likely that Intel will remain on top in CPU performance, this announcement means that we could be looking at a shakeup within three years unless Intel starts cranking away in research. We can certainly hope for things to heat up in the processor wars again. We don’t want Intel to become complacent about it’s position in the market.