SOI is an alternative to conventional silicon processing used by chipmaker Intel. While SOI can offer better performance, the process is far more expensive, making it difficult to use for a mass market. IBM, which uses SOI in its Power Architecture processors, first introduced the process in 1998.
In a related announcement, ARM Holdings said it's offering physical intellectual-property libraries for IBM's SOI technology. ARM's offering includes standard cell, memory, and input/output libraries. The technology is available for download at no charge from the ARM Web site.
IBM claims its 45-nm SOI chips offer up to 30% higher performance and 40% lower power usage than the conventional technology, called bulk complementary metal-oxide, or bulk CMOS. SOI is used in the Cell processor, designed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba, that powers the Sony PlayStation 3. SOI processors are also used in some IBM server products.
"Forty-five nanometer is our 6th generation of SOI technology and is a key driver in many collaborative designs with clients, including networking, storage, gaming, and other consumer applications," Mark Ireleand, VP of IBM's semiconductor platforms, said in a statement.
Besides offering a 45-nm foundry service in its own fabrication plants, IBM will use Singapore-based Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing as a second source foundry, according to EETimes, a publication of United Business Media, which also publishes InformationWeek.
Besides IBM, other chipmakers using SOI technology include Intel-rival Advanced Micro Devices and Freescale. The Microsoft Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii video-game consoles are powered by 90-nm Power Architecture-based processors built with SOI technology. On the foundry side, Chartered is building SOI processors, but competitor TSMC has mostly dropped production, saying there's too little demand.