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Friday, April 19, 2024

Samsung to partner with Arm on next generation of AI chips

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A smartphone with a displayed Arm Ltd logo is placed on a computer motherboard in this illustration taken March 6, 2023. [REUTERS]

Samsung Electronics is extending its partnership with Arm.

The Korean chipmaker announced that it will collaborate with the British company to manufacture the next generation of high-performance chipsets as it grapples to narrow its gap with industry leader TSMC.

Samsung said Wednesday that it will work with Arm to jointly optimize the British company’s Cortex-X core for Samsung’s own upcoming technologies that are built on the gate-all-around (GAA) process.

Samsung was the first company to introduce GAA technology in 2022, beating major competitors Intel and TSMC in a major milestone for the industry. It first utilized the technology on 3-nanometer nodes with a plan to deploy it on smaller nodes, which Intel and TSMC are also racing to do in the near future.

GAA transistors are highly customizable, allowing manufacturers to easily alter their performance and power consumption. The technology also reduces leakage and transistor variability compared to the market’s current offerings.

Optimizing Arm’s Cortex-X architecture for Samsung’s GAA process will allow Samsung’s clients in chip manufacturing to better access the British firm’s IP. This, in turn, will reduce the time and money necessary to manufacture advanced processors.

The renewed Samsung-Arm partnership will further extend to chips made on 2-nanometer nodes which will be used for data centers and infrastructure. The two companies will also work together to come up with “groundbreaking” AI chiplet solutions aimed at powering generative AI on mobile platforms in the future, according to the Korean tech giant.

“Both Samsung and Arm have build a solid foundation from many years of collaboration,” said Kye Jong-wook, executive vice president and head of foundry design platform development at Samsung Electronics said.

“This unprecedented level of deep design technology co-optimization has resulted in a groundbreaking accomplishment, providing access to the newest Cortex-CPU on the latest GAA process node.”

Samsung Electronics is in hot pursuit of TSMC in contract chip manufacturing as the popularity of large language models accelerates demand for AI chips. The Korean chipmaker has been trying to win over major clients, such as Nvidia and Apple, from TSMC, but that hasn’t been easy. Ambitious goals from Intel, a latecomer to the contract manufacturing business, are an additional threat.

A strong partnership with Arm could help Samsung break out of its current position sandwiched between those two competitors.

“The number of clients for Samsung’s contract chip manufacturing went from 100 in 2022 to 120 in 2023,” said KB Securities researcher Kim Dong-won. “The number is expected to double by 2028, reaching 210. The latest increase in orders for advanced manufacturing at Samsung, including the 2-nanometer nodes, will act as a turning point for Samsung to go head-to-head with TSMC.”

The global contract manufacturing business is expected to grow annually by an average of 13.8 percent from 2023 to 2026, with technologies smaller than 5-nanometer nodes leading the surge, according to industry tracker Omdia.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]