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IBM boosting mil-aero designs; taking SOI to Asic customers

Posted on: 02-May-2007

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IBM is leveraging its mixed-signal expertise to quietly build up revenues in the mil-aero IC market.
Tom Reeves, vice president of IBM’s semiconductor operations, said that after the Department of Defense closed the Ft. Meade facility it approached IBM to work on custom designs for the military, including radar, high-speed switches, and other Asics with rich mixed-signal content. Thus far, IBM has done about 200 designs, with about $100 million in revenues expected this year.
“The military had a number of wrong experiences with other commercial vendors. We set up an Asic design center, staffed 50:50 with badged IBM designers and military technology people, right there at what once was the Ft. Meade facility. The result has been a series of “first time right” designs,” Reeves said.
Reeves said IBM’s ability to characterize its mixed signal libraries is superior to its competition, causing customers to come to IBM for foundry services.
“Our electrical models for mixed-signal products are better than our competitions’, which allows customers to eliminate uncertainty,” he said.
The big business for IBM continues to be video game players ICs, followed by Asics for communications customers. IBM is moving its SOI process and design capabilities into the Asic space, offering SOI to designs done for customers such as Juniper Networks, Siemens, Alcatel, and others.
“They have all endorsed SOI, and it provides a natural radiation hardened capability that they like,” Reeves said.
The game market has worked out a little differently than pundits expected, with Nintendo’s Wii machine outperforming expectations. That has increased 90-nm production for Nintendo, while the 65-nm designs for Microsoft’s X-box and Sony’s Playstation 3 ramp up.
Reeves said that if the wafers dedicated to game chips are tallied up, including Sony’s Nagasaki fab, Chartered in Singapore, and IBM’s Fishkill fab, the aggregate would be in the 20,000 wafers per month range and growing.

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