9/1/2004 - When Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) embarked on the development of the 90-nm process for its next generation FPGAs, it was in the midst of a widespread industry debate that projected a difficult path to this new sub-micron process. The transition to the 90-nm node has certainly not been easy and has required more in-depth analysis, research and testing than prior nodes. However, taking lessons learned from previous product introductions and its near-flawless execution of 0.13-micron technology, Altera has proven once again that a well thought out design methodology and choice of mainstream process is critical for success. The company’s choice of TSMC’s proven 90-nm and low-k dielectric process is paying off with excellent yields and with devices that are exceeding expectations for power and performance.
The Stratix II family is continuing the momentum set by the original Stratix family. Altera’s customers are rapidly adopting the company’s technology, knowing that they can expect quality products delivered to them on time. Having grown 60 percent last quarter, the Stratix family has already made its mark as Altera’s largest selling family. Current design win activity indicates that the Stratix II family is building on that trend.
Altera’s ongoing success is the result of a well-defined methodology that focuses on crisp execution by limiting the variables that introduce risk on new process nodes. This well-defined methodology has led to predictable, rapid availability and accelerated cost reductions, as proven by the exceptionally smooth rollout of the original 0.13-micron Stratix and CycloneTM families.
Altera worked closely with TSMC and selected the mainstream low-k dielectric process for its 90-nm products. To further protect customers from availability issues, Altera embarked on an extensive process qualification period to ensure manufacturability and reliability before committing products to the new node. Altera selected Stratix II FPGAs as the first family to manufacture on 90-nm, knowing that customers traditionally have longer design cycles for complex FPGAs and demand greater integration from next-generation products. Additionally, Stratix II FPGAs leverage Altera’s patented redundancy technology, which enables reliable product delivery, even on big chips, during the early phase of development when defect densities are still high. Altera’s low-cost Cyclone II FPGAs will leverage the same process, ensuring a rapid ramp to production to meet the shortened time-to-market demands and cost sensitivity associated with higher-volume end products.
Much of Altera’s success can be attributed to the company’s strategy to have one foundry partner for advanced processes. TSMC, the world’s largest foundry and unrivaled leader in its industry, has the R&D muscle and strength to continuously invest and innovate at the bleeding edge while maintaining success and leadership at the leading edge.
While Altera’s main competitor has struggled to find a stable partner to manufacture their 90-nm products, the success Altera has seen so far with the Stratix II family is a preview to an expected smooth rollout of its entire portfolio of 90-nm products. Having complete confidence in the ability of TSMC to execute allows Altera to focus on its core competency—developing the next generation programmable logic solutions.
Under the Stratix II FPGA Hood: Designed for Lower Power and Higher Performance
Altera evaluated many techniques to reduce leakage power associated with the 90-nm node while maintaining performance, manufacturability and die area targets. Process customization, including using triple-oxide technology was ruled out because of concerns of higher costs and manufacturing challenges. Instead, Altera optimized voltage thresholds and modulated the length of transistors to maximize performance of critical circuits and minimize leakage of non-performance circuits. Additionally, Altera developed a new and more efficient logic structure called adaptive logic modules (ALMs) specifically for the high-density Stratix II family to increase performance without consuming unnecessary power.
Stratix II devices are the industry’s only 90-nm, low-k FPGAs. Available from distributors worldwide, Stratix II FPGAs are 50 percent faster, have higher densities and offer more memory bandwidth when compared to the closest competing high-density FPGAs. Based on recent customer demand, a new 780-pin BGA package is being added to the family for the EP2S90 and EP2S130 devices. Stratix II design tools and support have been available since Q1 2004 and devices began shipping on schedule in Q2 2004. Altera has taped out two more family members and the remaining members are on track to tape out in the next two months. For more information about Stratix II, log on to www.altera.com/stratix2.
About the Author
Erik Cleage is Altera’s senior vice president of marketing. He is the company’s chief product strategist and spearheads the worldwide product marketing and product planning groups. He joined the company more than 18 years ago and holds a degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
Altera Corporation is the world’s pioneer in system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) solutions. Combining programmable logic technology with software tools, intellectual property, and technical services, Altera provides high-value programmable solutions to approximately 14,000 customers worldwide. More information is available at www.altera.com.
Altera, The Programmable Solutions Company, the stylized Altera logo, specific device designations and all other words that are identified as trademarks and/or service marks are, unless noted otherwise, the trademarks and service marks of Altera Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.
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