Faraday plots a 64-core Arm chip with Intel inside
The melding of Neoverse cores and x86 giant's latest process tech was bound to happen eventually
Intel Foundry Services (IFS) has found a customer in Faraday Technology, which plans to fab its Arm Neoverse-based processors using the x86 giant's 18A process tech.
The union of Intel process technology and Arm chip designs seems fated from IFS's inception. The vast majority of processors outside the datacenter and PC market are Arm-based and refusing to service those designs would have limited IFS's addressable market considerably. So, last spring, Intel announced a partnership with Arm to validate the architecture against the chip builder's process tech.
However, the pairing hasn't been smooth sailing. Last year CEO Pat Gelsinger dismissed the Arm architecture as a threat to its PC business and, in the next breath, suggested that IFS is more than happy to fab chips based on the architecture. And that's exactly what Faraday Technology plans to do.
The fabless Taiwanese biz on Sunday revealed it's working on a 64-core processor based on Arm's Neoverse designs. More specifically, Faraday - best known for ASIC design services - will be trying Arm's shake and bake Compute Subsystem (CSS) processors.
Announced in mid-2023, CSS is the closest we've seen Arm come to designing whole processors for their customers. Instead of licensing CPU cores, GPUs, or other chip building blocks and leaving it to the customer to stitch them together, Arm's CSS designs leave little room for customization.
Microsoft's Cobalt 100 chip announced late last year is one of the first examples of Arm's CSS platform seen in action.
Faraday hasn't said which Neoverse core the designs will use, but based on the first half 2025 launch window and core count, we suspect they're using N2 CPUs. Faraday's chip will also incorporate IP from Arm's Total Design ecosystem.
"This solution will benefit our ASIC and DIS customers, enabling them to expedite the time to market for cutting edge datacenter and HPC applications," Faraday CEO Steve Wang said in a statement.
This suggests that Faraday's chips, while based on Arm's Neoverse cores, will be built to order and implement third-party and proprietary IP. Considering its roots in ASIC design, this isn't all that surprising. Accelerators often require general purpose processor cores to manage the control plane and Arm cores have long been the go-to for this.
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Faraday's decision to fab the chip on Intel's 18A process tech, which will supposedly be "manufacturing-ready" later this year, is perhaps the most interesting element of this announcement. Intel has been talking up its angstrom era process tech for years now while it's worked to build out its foundry capacity in Arizona, Ohio, Germany, and Israel.
The process tech represents a big step forward for the chipmaker and custom foundry hopeful. Intel's process tech has faced repeated setbacks over the past few years. With its 20A and 18A processes among the first to implement both gate all around (GAA) — Intel calls this RibbonFET — and backside power delivery, the chipmaker hopes to put those headaches behind it.
The latter is expected to deliver considerable improvements in efficiency by simplifying power and data routing. What's more, Intel is expected to be the first to market with the tech.
Whether Intel will actually be able to deliver this on time remains to be seen. Last week, we learned that, faced with slowing semiconductor demand, Intel was delaying its Ohio fab build out. ®