Partnership To Speed Up Optical I/O Silicon

Created December 8, 2017
Technologies and Products

Semiconductor foundry GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF) and Ayar Labs, a start-up developing optical input/output (I/O) for silicon chips, have announced a strategic collaboration to co-develop and commercialise differentiated silicon photonic technology solutions.

The duo will develop and manufacture Ayar’s  CMOS optical I/O technology, using GF’s 45 nm CMOS fabrication process, to deliver an alternative to copper I/O that offers up to ten times higher bandwidth and up to five times lower power. This solution will be integrated in-package with customer ASICs as a multi-chip module, and improve data speed and energy efficiency in cloud servers, datacentres and supercomputers. As part of the agreement, GF has also invested an undisclosed amount in Ayar Labs.

Modern data centres and cloud applications require high-performance, power-hungry chips to process and analyse huge volumes of data in real time. Growth in chip I/O capabilities has not matched exponential increases in computing power, because of physical limitations in electrical data transmission. Optical I/O, which leverages optical components on the CMOS die to transmit data at rapid speeds, will be a key enabler to overcoming the limitations of today’s data centre interconnects. In addition, Ayar’s technology reduces power consumption at both the network and processor level.

“GF has demonstrated true technology leadership in recognising optical I/O as the inevitable next step as we move into a ‘more than Moore’ world,” according to Ayar Labs CEO Alex Wright-Gladstein. “This collaboration between Ayar and GF could improve chip communication bandwidth by more than an order of magnitude and at lower power, and is a validation of Ayar’s viability in the current semiconductor ecosystem. This collaboration will unlock a larger market opportunity, expanding both our and GF’s customer base.”

“The Ayar Labs team has been designing cutting-edge silicon photonics components on GF’s technology for the past eight years, and has achieved exceptional results,” adds Mike Cadigan, GF Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development.

The collaboration brings together Ayar Labs’ patented IP in optical technology with GF’s expertise in silicon photonics to co-develop optical solutions that will be fabricated using GF’s process technology. The availability of this technology, including certain design IP cores, will enable Internet service providers, system vendors and communication systems to push data capacity to 10 Tbits/s and beyond, while maintaining the low energy and cost of optical-based interconnects.

John Williamson

This article was written
by John Williamson

John Williamson is a freelance telecommunications, IT and military communications journalist. He has also written for national and international media, and been a telecoms advisor to the World Bank.