IBM’s SOI Power
Posted date : Jul 11, 2005

IBM is reaping the benefits of its long SOI history.

In 1998, IBM announced that after years of research, it had “perfected” SOI, and would incorporate it into custom and standard products. “We believe SOI, with its high- performance and low-power characteristics, is a significant breakthrough in chip technology,” said Mike Attardo, General Manager, IBM Microelectronics at the time. “Like our copper chips, SOI will accelerate the industry’s constant drive to create smaller, more powerful, less expensive electronic goods.” Prescient words.

The 64-bit PowerPC 970FX, announced just last year, was the first in the industry to combine SOI, strained silicon and copper technologies – in 90nm, 300mm production, no less. “Our decades-long commitment to pursuing and rapidly implementing technology breakthroughs like SOI and strained silicon is paving the way for a new generation of power savvy chips,” said Bernard S. Meyerson, IBM Fellow and chief technologist, IBM Systems and Technology Group, at the time of the announcement. “With this fusion of IBM-pioneered technologies, customers no longer have to sacrifice performance to achieve the power savings they increasingly demand.”

Less than a year later, the company had already shipped more than a million of these chips.

Last year, IBM also released the first systems powered by the Power5 microprocessor. Within the last few months, it set a major new SAP record, beating the old record by 68% while using half the number of processors. In another top bench-mark, POWER5 processor-based servers recorded results with over three million transactions per minute, eclipsing the nearest competitor threefold. But if customers come for the performance of these SOI-based systems, they stay for the scalability and reliability.

Other SOI implementations such as the e-Server z-series are fast winning customers with mission critical operations. But the real performance is seen on the way to the bank. For example, IDC recently announced that in first quarter 2005, IBM maintained the number one server vendor position based on worldwide revenue. Which just goes to show that innovation pays.

(See the next issue of Advanced Substrate News for a feature on IBM’s SOI & the Cell processor). •

• A Brief History of SOI at IBM

  • 1978-1980’s: SOI research projects
  • 1990-present: SOI development
  • 1998: SOI announced as “perfected”
  • 1999: RS64 series (“Pulstar”)
  • 2000: AS400 (0.22µm then 0.18µm)
  • 2001: Power4 (dual core, 174 million transistors/processor; 0.18µm copper + SOI)
  • The 64-bit PowerPC 970FX microprocessor, the first chip built using a breakthrough combination of SOI, strained silicon and copper wiring technologies.
  • 2002: 32-bit PowerPC 750FX (1GHz; 0.13µm copper + SOI + low-k)
  • 2003: eServer z-Series
  • 2004: 64-bit PowerPC 970FX (SOI + strained Si)
  • 2004: Power5 (dual core, 276 million transistors/processor, 0.13-µm copper + SOI)
  • 2005: PowerPC 970FX at 90nm. •

Power5 Chip Die

The 64-bit PowerPC 970FX microprocessor, the first chip built using a breakthrough combination of SOI, strained silicon and copper wiring technologies.

All photos are courtesy of International Business Machines Corporation. Unauthorized use not permitted.

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