GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

By Tiffany Trader

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they’ve entered into a strategic partnership. The companies will develop and manufacture Ayar’s optical I/O technology using GF’s CMOS fabrication process to deliver an alternative to copper interconnects that offers 10 times higher bandwidth and up to five times lower power. As part of the agreement, GF has also invested an undisclosed amount in Ayar.

The partners say the collaboration will create unique and differentiated solutions for cloud servers, datacenters and HPC customers and will benefit from GF’s investment in 45nm CMOS technology.

Ayar Labs’ photonics devices will be manufactured on GF’s 45nm RF SOI (Radio Frequency Silicon on Insulator) process at its East Fishkill fab. GF says it expects to deliver prototype parts for Ayar Lab customers in 2018 and will be ready to support production ramp-up post successful qualification.

GlobalFoundries East Fishkill, NY, facility

Although today’s announcement marks the start of a formal direct relationship between the companies, the researchers who formed Ayar Labs have using the fab’s technology to design silicon photonics components since 2009 but they did so via multi-project wafer runs, relying on aggregators who collect designs from university groups and startups that don’t have the resources to do full wafer runs.

Ayar Labs was launched in 2016 by a group of researchers from MIT, UC Berkeley, and CU Boulder who were part of a 10-year research collaboration funded by DARPA. Their breakthrough was to put advanced electronics and optics on the same chip leading to the development of the first microprocessor chip to communicate using light, implemented via standard CMOS.

“They had a really interesting approach,” explained Alex Wright-Gladstein, CEO of Ayar Labs and one of its cofounders. “Instead of taking manufacturing methods from the optics industry which usually use materials like indium phosphide and different III-V materials, instead of using that set of techniques to make optics, they just said let’s try to use standard CMOS manufacturing, pure silicon, with no change to the standard CMOS process, and see if we can make optics work in that totally different framework and use optical I/O instead of electrical I/O, get rid of electrical I/O entirely, get rid of copper.

“While there’s been attention on longer distance optical communication, we’re doing shorter distances, trying to replace copper cables that are used inside datacenters and even the copper traces on printed circuit boards. We’re very excited about the partnership with GlobalFoundries, having their backing and validation, because it will help open up a new customer base to us and this partnership will help us qualify our products and get them into the market faster,” said Wright-Gladstein.

Source: Ayar Labs

The problem that the technology is aiming to solve is well understood in HPC circles and in the semiconductor industry. Moore’s law has driven an exponential increase in the amount of computing power you can fit on a chip while the speed at which data moves in and out of chips has only made incremental gains. Over the past few decades, that has become a bottleneck so processors and servers can process huge amounts of data but spend a lot of time waiting to send and receive data.

The DARPA-backed research effort resulted in a chip with a bandwidth density of 300 gigabits per second per square millimeter, “about 10 to 50 times greater than packaged electrical-only microprocessors currently on the market.”

The technology is well described in the inventors’ December 2015 Nature paper, which HPCwire covered here. The first two authors, Chen Sun of UC Berkeley and Mark Wade of CU Boulder, are Ayar Labs full-time cofounders. The professors who co-authored the paper are part-time cofounders MIT’s Rajeev Ram, Vladimir Stojanovic at UC Berkeley, and Miloš Popovic from CU Boulder.

Improvements have been made in terms of data rates since the paper was published, Wright-Gladstein told HPCwire: “We’ve moved to standard wavelength ranges. We’re using O-band wavelengths rather than the non-standard 1,180nm that was described in that paper, but the fundamental architecture is still using that same approach so that micro-ring resonator based approach with dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) at lots of wavelengths on a single fiber.”

Ayar’s first products will support 8 and 16 wavelengths of light on a single fiber and eventually they plan to go to 32.

Ayar is implementing the technology in multi-chip modules, where you have chiplets in the same package with very short electrical links connecting them. “So it doesn’t really matter where the processor is getting made or what node it’s in,” said the CEO. “It can be a 7nm CMOS node with ultra short reach links coming out of it that just go to our very close chiplet that’s integrated in-package with that processor chip or similarly with a switch ASIC, for example. And because those electrical links are so short they are also very very low power so you end up enabling a full kit package with multiple chiplets in it that is lower power than if you were to have beefier electrical SerDes driving the signal a longer distance.”

Ayar is targeting two spaces initially: high-performance computing and the traditional datacenter. “Until now there’s always been a tradeoff between going to go to higher bandwidth in your network versus having low latencies, and we are not forcing system architects to have to make those tradeoffs,” said Wright-Gladstein, who points to the potential for speeding machine/deep learning training by enabling highly parallel models.

Ayar also believes its technology has a role to play in enabling disaggregated architectures. “Having bigger pools of processing power and memory makes it so you can be more flexible about how you allocate your jobs across your datacenter and reduce the amount of time that your resources are idling and not being used,” said the CEO.

In the big picture, Wright-Gladstein is bullish about the success of on-chip optical I/O in the datacenter, expecting that it will replace CMOS SerDes within the next 5-10 years, clarifying that “it’s just the I/O portion that I think will be replaced, the power is we’re still using CMOS for everything else.”

“It’s pretty clear that we’re at the end of CMOS electrical I/O and being able to scale electrical SerDes as we have in the past,” she continued. “25 gigabits per second per pin is where we are today and people are working on 50 gigabits per second per pin. There’s a cadence of doubling that bandwidth every few years but folks are starting to struggle with the idea of moving to 100 gigabits per second per pin electrical SerDes and it’s tough to imagine going beyond that so something else needs to come along and [Ayar] technology which offers a 10x improvement rather than the standard 2x is really going to be an enabler for that.”

Alex Wright-Gladstein

While the Ayar CEO envisions light displacing electrical communications in the near future, over the longer term, she sees opportunities for silicon photonics beyond I/O, for example in quantum computing. She relates that teams looking to use optics for quantum computing face challenges with respect to manufacturability where it’s difficult to achieve the high consistency (low variation) that optical devices demand and high yield.

“At Ayar, we get to use this massive ecosystem of CMOS manufacturing, having GlobalFoundries, a standard CMOS fab, manufacturing our chips, something that is totally unique within optics,” she says. “Most optics manufacturing is much lower volume and much lower yield, but just the fact that billions of dollars have been poured into the CMOS manufacturing ecosystem means it’s a much more reliable manufacturing flow with much better controls. So in the longer term we want to make our platform available to a wide range of different applications for optics, such as quantum computing, LIDAR imaging for self-driving cars, and many healthcare applications.”

Anthony Yu, who leads the silicon photonics business within GF, told HPCwire that the company plans to move to its next-generation 45nm photonics process in 2019. That will be a follow on to the 90nm photonics process running currently in GF’s East Fishkill facility.

“That will be a process design entirely for photonics, entirely for things like optical tranceivers and we’ll be taking up Ayar Labs technology in the pure photonics process and bringing about even more performance for both Ayar Labs and our customers,” he said.

Of course, Ayar and GF aren’t the only companies pursuing the potential and promise of silicon photonics. Intel and IBM have demonstrated multiple breakthroughs already and hyperscalers have considerable motivation to develop their own technologies. Competition is sure to be fierce.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Russian and American Scientists Achieve 50% Increase in Data Transmission Speed

September 20, 2018

As high-performance computing becomes increasingly data-intensive and the demand for shorter turnaround times grows, data transfer speed becomes an ever more important bottleneck. Now, in an article published in IEEE Tra Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM to Brand Rescale’s HPC-in-Cloud Platform

September 20, 2018

HPC (or big compute)-in-the-cloud platform provider Rescale has formalized the work it’s been doing in partnership with public cloud vendors by announcing its Powered by Rescale program – with IBM as its first named Read more…

By Doug Black

Democratization of HPC Part 1: Simulation Sheds Light on Building Dispute

September 20, 2018

This is the first of three articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of High Performance Computing especially in new user communities and application areas. Major reasons for this trend are the ongoing improvements i Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Clouds Over the Ocean – a Healthcare Perspective

Advances in precision medicine, genomics, and imaging; the widespread adoption of electronic health records; and the proliferation of medical Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices are resulting in an explosion of structured and unstructured healthcare-related data. Read more…

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Gordon Bell Prize used Summit in their work. That’s impres Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

At HPC on Wall Street: AI-as-a-Service Accelerates AI Journeys

September 10, 2018

AIaaS – artificial intelligence-as-a-service – is the technology discipline that eases enterprise entry into the mysteries of the AI journey while lowering Read more…

By Doug Black

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This