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IBM Chips in $3B for Cloud, Big Data

Sarah Thomas

IBM plans to shell out $3 billion over the next five years as the computing giant looks to push the limits of its silicon. Specifically, it will use the money to fund research and early-stage development programs in cloud computing and big data systems.

The money is being split between two research programs: the first aimed at scaling its chips down to tiny 7nm technology, something it says it can do but has yet to figure out how, when, and at what cost; and the second on developing alternative chip technologies to silicon, which eventually won't be able to physically meet the needs of evolving cloud and big data applications.

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) is looking to build lower-power, higher-speed chips to stay relevant in a quickly evolving market. Aiding its research is the fact that it holds 500 patents for technologies around 7nm silicon, but it's also racing to out-innovate chipmakers like Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) (NYSE: TSM).

It says its IBM Research scientists and engineers from Albany and Yorktown, N.Y.; Almaden, Calif.; and Europe will be taking on emerging areas of research on silicon alternatives in carbon nanoelectronics, silicon photonics, new memory technologies, and architectures that support quantum and cognitive computing. You can find a lot more detail on its ambitious plans in its release, along with an infographic on the challenge.

This investment comes amidst rumors that IBM is looking to sell its chip manufacturing business to GlobalFoundries Inc. Shares of the company were down 1.61 points, or 0.85%, to $186.81 on Thursday morning after the investment was announced.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/14/2014 | 12:26:09 PM
Re: holds 500 patents for technologies around 7nm silicon
@Susan, yes, that does fit.  IBM is leading big data efforts internationally, so that fits; and Europe is ahead in some areas.  I think it is a smart move.
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
7/12/2014 | 2:52:05 AM
Re: holds 500 patents for technologies around 7nm silicon
This sounds like a follow-up research to the nano-scaled chips IBM researchers were working on in Europe last year. Good news for the semiconductor industry. 

User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 4:48:27 PM
Re: holds 500 patents for technologies around 7nm silicon
@Ariella, it is an interesting rumor. It certainly makes sense if they are developing the next generation technology - which I had heard as well.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/11/2014 | 12:01:41 PM
Re: holds 500 patents for technologies around 7nm silicon
@SReedy are you implying that you believe the rumors to be well-founded?
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/10/2014 | 9:41:52 PM
Re: IBM R&D has created a lot of nanoscale stuff!!!
@mhhf1ve, I am with you.  IBM is smart to be on the cutting edge for the continued development of technology to advance the cloud and big data.  They are truly building an entire ecosystem to support and advance big data - I think it is great.  If they discover and advance chip improvement with nanotechnology that would of great value - especially if it also develops breakthroughs in energy use.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/10/2014 | 4:47:17 PM
IBM R&D has created a lot of nanoscale stuff!
It takes decades for IBM's R&D to pay off sometimes, but I hope they continue to do their fundamental research -- and not just for the sake of computer chips, but for all kinds of nanotechnology benefits.
User Rank: Light Beer
7/10/2014 | 12:57:59 PM
holds 500 patents for technologies around 7nm silicon
Surely if IBM truly "holds 500 patents for technologies around 7nm silicon" then it must have more than just some inkling how to pursue the construction of a 7nm fab?!
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