Partnering with Globalfoundries: Q&A with Socle chairman Song-Hwee Chia
Socle Technology, formerly a IC design service subsidiary of Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, now works closely with Globalfoundries and looks to become the bridge between the new foundry partner and fabless design houses in China and Taiwan. Digitimes recently had the opportunity to talk with Socle chairman Song-Hwee Chia, who also serves as COO of Globalfoundries, about how the Globalfoundries/Socle pair would pose a threat to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)/Global Unichip and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC)/Faraday Technology.
Q: After Chartered is folded into Globalfoundries, what does Socle gain to compete with rivals Global Unichip and Faraday Technology?
A: Globalfoundries has cutting-edge production capabilities and process technology, a leading facility in Dresden, Germany and a new facility under construction in upstate New York. Chartered brings pure-play foundry know-how, an existing customer base and capacity at both 200mm and 300mm wafer sizes. Combining Chartered’s resources will allow Globalfoundries to be more competitive against its foundry rivals.
Socle will certainly take advantage of Globalfoundries’ advanced technologies and design enablement. Globalfoundries will benefit from Socle simultaneously, as the design service partner offers customers proven system-level expertise and integrated platforms along with specialized know-now in areas like wireless.
Q: In your opinion, why have the design service companies become more important to foundries, especially on leading-edge nodes?
A: Some fabless companies in Taiwan and China lack design capabilities and methodologies that are required for advanced technology nodes. Socle can serve as the bridge between Globalfoundries and these fabless houses. The migration from 0.13-micron to 65nm offers new changes in design for manufacturing, while 40nm and 28nm technologies require special consideration for low power and low leakage. These new design challenges pose greater risk, at a time when time to market is especially critical, and the cost of mistakes is tremendously high. A 65nm re-spin can cost over half a million dollars, and 40nm is over US$1 million.
Socle can provide fabless houses with unique support with its SoC platforms and firmware capabilities, and this know-how is quite valuable for smaller fabless houses and system houses that do not have large infrastructures. There are certainly many types of customers and opportunities and Globalfoundries is able to service more of them with a design services partner like Socle.
Q: What is the challenge to Globalfoundries now, as well as Socle?
A: Globalfoundries’ most immediate challenges are to complete our integration process, and to successfully execute on our process technology roadmap. Overall the integration is going well, but we still have more work to do. Fab 1 was the first fab to ramp production using 45nm, and with our strong relationship with AMD, we expect to first produce on 32/28nm well ahead of our peers.
Socle has a different challenge, which is its selling strategy. Socle needs to actively pursue business opportunities and expand its customer portfolio.
Q: We all know that TSMC will acquire a 10% stake in SMIC, whereas UMC looks to merge with HeJian in the future. What is Globalfoundries’ strategy for the Greater China market?
A: Our strategy, in essence, is to provide leading-edge and value-added solutions, and an open ecosystem that will enable product innovation and improve customer time-to-market while lowering risk. We seek to broaden our offerings, including leveraging our production capacity to serve emerging applications.
China plays as an important and growing part of Globalfoundries’ business, and we don’t feel business in the region will be limited by whether or not we have a facility there.
Q: Does Globalfoundries have plans to tap the green energy market?
A: Globalfoundries’ focus is to pursue excellence in the dedicated IC foundry field. There are tremendous growth opportunities in the foundry space, we need to have sharp focus in our core business and execution.
Q: Would you like to talk about Socle’s upcoming design platform built on Globalfoundries’ 65nm?
A: Socle recently announced plans to launch “sPad,” a complete and powerful system chip and SoC development platform for tablet PCs. sPad adopts Globalfoundries’ high performance 65nm low-power process. sPad will consist of the ARM1176 CPU core and complete software and hardware solutions, allowing shorter time-to-market.
Socle chairman Song-Hwee Chia
Photo: Ingrid Lee, Digitimes, May 2010