Intel is usually ahead of competitors in the nanometer race and the company has accordingly long rebuffed the idea of allowing outside customers use of its facilities. The outlook for third-party chip designers improved markedly last year, however, when Intel announced that it would manufacture field programmable gate arrays for San Jose-based Achronix Semiconductor Corporation. This week, Intel has reached yet another agreement — this time with Tabula, Inc. — that will see it produce upcoming products for the semiconductor developer. The allure of Intel's latest 22-nanometer manufacturing process (which will debut in the Ivy Bridge family of processors this year) was the determining factor in Tabula's decision to change course from its current 40-nanometer manufacturing arrangement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Intel has also let on that it has more deals in place than the two which have been made public and has even given the build-to-order venture a name: Intel Custom Foundry. Further, it has explained that one of the main reasons for the manufacturing deals is self-serving: the company will be examining the work of its design partners for ideas to improve upon its own silicon.