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Posted: 07:20:08 PM, 30/03/2012

Globalfoundries: We shipped 250,000 HKMG wafers

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Earlier this month, things seemed bleak for Globalfoundries when it announced an amended wafer supply agreement with its top customer and former parent company, AMD. The upshot was that AMD was willing pay Globalfoundries $425 million and give up its remaining stake in its former manufacturing unit in exchange for the right to have 28-nm accelerated processing units (APUs) built by another foundry (presumably TSMC).

It didn't sound good. Yes, we set out our headline as "AMD ditches Globalfoundries." But in retrospect that seems like a gross oversimplification of a rather complicated arrangement.

Globalfoundries has always had a long term goal of achieving complete independence from AMD. But the company couldn't have wanted it to happen like this. Globalfoundries can't be thrilled about waiving the provision of its deal with AMD that called for Globalfoundries to build its 28-nm APUs exclusively.

Still, any conclusion that the amended deal spelled the end of the road for the two companies' business relationship was apparently way off base. For starters, AMD actually plans to spend more on wafers with Globalfoundries this year than it did last year (about $1.5 billion, compared to about $900 million in 2011). AMD CFO Thomas Seifert said AMD plans to have 28-nm APUs built at both TSMC and Globalfoundries.

AMD executives also appear to be going out of their way to emphasize that the relationship between the two companies has actually strengthened considerably since last summer, when 32-nm yield issues at Globalfoundries hurt AMD's sales.

The latest example of this neighborly vibe came Wednesday (March 21), when Globalfoundries issued an announcement stating that has shipped a quarter million wafers based on its 32-nm high-k metal gate (HKMG) technology. Globalfoundries can't claim a lot of technical advantages over TSMC, but as the announcement states the 250,000 shipped HKMG wafers represents a significant lead over other foundries in HKMG manufacturing.

The statement also includes a quote from AMD CEO Rory Read stating that the HKMG milestone is a "testament" to the progress that the two companies have made together. "In just one quarter, we were able to see more than a doubling of yields on 32-nm, allowing us to exit 2011 having exceeded our 32-nm product shipment requirements," Read said. "Based on this successful ramp of 32-nm HKMG, we are committed to moving ahead on 28-nm with Globalfoundries."

In the same statement, Globalfoundries CEO Ajit Manocha referenced problems with early yield learning on 32-nm HKMG, but said several organization and operational changes (presumably including his own appointment as CEO) led to dramatic improvement in production velocity and yield on 32-nm HKMG. "And since our 28-nm technology uses the same HKMG implementation as 32-nm, AMD and other customers will benefit greatly from our high-volume ramp of leading-edge APUs at 32-nm."

So it would seem that, despite the amended wafer supply agreement, Globalfoundries and AMD remain close.


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