Week in Review – 2006.06.30

Here are some of the interesting articles I found this week:

Intel Ranks First in Latest Supercomputer Rankings
According to the supercomputer rankings released at the International Supercomputer Conference, a total of 301 systems on the latest list use Intel processors, down from 333 systems just six months ago. Intel’s 64-bit x86 processors are being rapidly adopted in popular cluster configurations rising from 81 to 118 systems. However, the Itanium chip dropped from 46 to 36 supercomputers.

IBM’s Power processor was ranked second, with 84 systems on the list. The custom PowerPC 440 used in the high-end BlueGene system is now installed on 26 systems on the list. AMD was third with 81 Opteron systems in the Top 500. That’s up from 55 systems six months ago and just 25 in the list a year ago. Twenty-six of the Opteron systems are based on dual-core processors.

Where’s the Semiconductor Market Headed?
Handelsbanken Capital Markets projects that the semiconductor market will now grow 5% in 2006 over 2005, down from 6% in its previous forecast. The lowered forecast is a result of the worldwide PC slowdown. On the other hand, iSuppli has slightly upgraded its semiconductor forecast for 2006. iSuppli expects the semiconductor industry to grow by 7.9%, up from 7.4% forecasted previously.

Xilinx Recalls Spartan-3 FPGAs (pdf)
Xilinx issued a quality alert and recalled the Spartan-3, Spartan-3E, and Spartan-3L FPGA families. According to their alert, specific lots of wirebonded PBGA packages were found to exhibit bond lift failures through a single customer experience as of this date. An ongoing investigation of this issue points to specific lots of industry-standard mold compound in combination with industry-standard wirebond and molding process as main contributors to this issue. This Quality Alert is an effort to proactively communicate potential impact.

Interconnect Models Curb Chip Power
Semiconductor researchers are constantly seeking power-saving techniques as they scale chips to ever-smaller sizes. At 45 nanometers and below, interconnects, rather than the transistors themselves, become the bottleneck to maintaining low power. At the recent International Interconnect Technology Conference, two technical papers showed the direction in which interconnects-on-chip are heading.