TSMC will start by making Sun processors based on a 45-nanometer manufacturing process. Such chips hold smaller transistors than the older 65 nm process, which means the former is more powerful and energy efficient. Texas Instruments, which had been Sun's foundry for two decades, will continue to test and package Sun processors.
In choosing TSMC, Sun has partnered with the world's largest chip foundry in terms of market share. Such businesses fabricate processors designed by others. "TSMC gives us leading process technology coupled with the economics scale of high volume and lower cost," David Yen, Sun's executive VP for Sun's microelectronics group, said in a statement.
Texas Instruments about a year ago said it did not plan on spending the billions of dollars needed to shift manufacturing facilities from 65 nm to 45 nm. This decision led to Sun moving to TSMC. "TI has had the pleasure of being a strategic partner with Sun for almost two decades and we look forward to working with TSMC to provide turnkey backend support for Sun's Sparc product roadmap," said Hunter Ward, VP and general manger of TI's Sun Business Unit.
Sun and TSMC also plan to work together on Sun's OpenSparc program, starting with an expansion of a university outreach program in Taiwan. OpenSparc is a 64-bit, 32-thread processor design free of any royalty or licensing fees. TSMC has a large customer base and a "substantial number" of large intellectual property partners that are expected to help expand OpenSparc adoption.