Recently, good news has been reported on Silicon Catalyst, a semiconductor chip incubator in which Bojiang Capital has invested in the United States: a USD 24 million Series A financing round has been completed for the Ayar Labs Project in the incubator, with the investors including industry giants GlobalFoundries and Intel Capital, and the world-renowned investment institution Founders Fund.
Ayar Labs is a startup that improves the speed and energy efficiency of high performance computing systems with silicon chips that transmit data using light. By combining optical and electronics technologies, Ayar Labs has developed TeraPHY, a new, faster and more efficient optoelectronic chip. It will significantly improve computing speed, increase the bandwidth of a large data center by 10 times, reduce the communication energy consumption between chips by 95%, and decrease the total energy consumption by 30%-50%.
Specifically, Ayar Labs’ TeraPHY silicon chip is a PHY (port physical layer) chip more than 1 terabit. It offers unprecedented bandwidth density and energy efficiency for optical integration in a package. The initial products of Ayar Labs will be available in 1.6 Tbps and 3.2 Tbps versions. The electrical interface will be subject to 50 Gbps very short reach (VSR) links, and a TeraPHY chip can interface with a customer’s chip via either on-board or in-package electrical circuits. Optical connectivity will be achieved through a standard duplex LC connector. A separate SuperNova light supply module supplies light to the TeraPHY silicon chip via four additional optical fibers.
Since the invention of silicon chips 60 years ago, the chip capacity has been doubled almost every two years according to the Moore’s Law. However, the chips’ data input and output abilities have not kept pace, because the development of data transmission technology has encountered a bottleneck: Although the chips run faster and faster, they still communicate with each other via copper wires, which not only reduce the speed of the system, but also force the chips to idle and waste energy during data transmission. This bottleneck will not disappear as long as copper wires are used.
By introducing photonic signal transmission for digital microelectronics and replacing copper cables with optical I/O “chips” and multi-port multi-wavelength lasers, Ayar Labs improves data transmission measures such as density, bandwidth, latency and energy efficiency by orders of magnitude. It is reported that the first commercial products with the latest technology will be launched in 2020. The investment of two industry giants, GlobalFoundries and Intel Capital, will speed up the commercialization of Ayar Labs’ direct-to-chip optical solutions, and introduce edge multi-chip modules by integrating the advantage of silicon photonics. Ayar Labs’ optical chips will be integrated into the existing multi-chip module ecosystem to obtain high-bandwidth, low-latency and low-power-dissipation optical communications directly from the partners’ chips.
It is worth mentioning that, as the incubator of Ayar Labs, Silicon Catalyst signed a cooperation agreement with Bojiang Capital and the Management Committee of Hangzhou Economic and Technological Development Area (HEDA) to jointly build a machine intelligence incubator in 2017. Bojiang Capital and HEDA will jointly establish a machine intelligence industry fund whose investment will be RMB 100 million in its first phase, and build Silicon Catalyst (China) Cross-Border Incubator featuring machine intelligence. The project was officially listed in the key projects of 2017 Hangzhou Qiantang River Financial Harbor Construction in first half of the year.