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AMD's foundry arm open for business

Posted: 05 Mar 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:silicon foundry spinoff  300-mm fab  foundry vendor  32-nm technology 

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) new silicon foundry spinoff has officially opened for business, disclosed its corporate name and unveiled its strategy.

The foundry spinoff, dubbed GlobalFoundries, has one 300-mm fab in operation, with another two on the drawing board. The company will compete against other foundry vendors, but the startup has its sights set on market leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC).

Many of the details of GlobalFoundries have been expected and disclosed for months. Last year, AMD moved to split the company into two parts. AMD itself has now become fabless, as it spun out its manufacturing arm into a new and independent foundry vendor.

''We're beginning our business,'' said Doug Grose, chief executive of GlobalFoundries, in an interview. ''We see this as a game changer. There is a need to have an alternative (foundry) that is not set in Asia.''

But the company is opening up for business amid a terrible downturn, in which foundries are losing money and seeing poor demand. ''At same point, this (downturn) is going to turn,'' he said.

GlobalFoundries is a joint venture between AMD and the Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC) of Abu Dhabi. Under the current plan, AMD will own a 34.2 percent stake of the foundry venture, while ATIC will own the remaining shares.

The new foundry venture will have 2,800 employees. Some 300 are based in the U.S. As expected, GlobalFoundries will service the manufacturing needs of AMD and other customers, putting the new foundry company in direct competition with SMIC, TSMC, UMC, and, to some degree, Chartered, IBM, Samsung and others.

Last October, the foundry spinoff became the latest member in IBM's ''fab club,'' which also includes Chartered, IBM and Samsung. The spinoff will gain access to IBM's common platform technology, including its 32-nm technology. The 32-nm process, to ship by year's end, includes high-k and metal gates.

Mixed opinions
Technically, GlobalFoundries is now making 45-nm processors for AMD. The company will focus on the leading edge and find customers that are doing 32- and 28-nm designs, said Grose, formerly senior vice president of manufacturing operations at AMD.

The company also sees itself going toe-to-toe with the market leader. "The focus is TSMC,'' he said. ''Someone needs to stay ahead (in process technology) and get ahead of TSMC.''

Initially, it appears the new foundry vendor will fight for business at ATI. ATI, the graphics chip arm of AMD, has the bulk of its chips made on a foundry basis at TSMC. ''We are looking at a piece of that graphics business,'' he said.

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