HPE collaborates with Ayar Labs to develop optical interconnect technology

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Ayar Labs have recently announced a multi-year collaboration to accelerate the development and adoption of optical I/O technology using silicon photonics. 

This new technology will support future requirements for high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions by enabling scientists to ‘unlock greater value from their research’ commented Justin Hotard, senior vice president and general manager of HPC and AI at HPE.

Charles Wuischpard, CEO of Ayar Labs commented: ‘This collaboration will accelerate the introduction of a whole new class of system architectures that overcome the existing limitations of traditional interconnects, ushering in a new era for efficient, scalable high-performance computing.’

Optical I/O could significantly increase application performance by accelerating the rate of data movement for large scale computing systems used in HPC and AI.

In a recent white paper, Ayar Labs reports that it was the first organisation ‘to deliver monolithic in-package optical I/O (OIO) chiplets, a new universal I/O solution that enables chips to communicate with each other from millimetre to kilometre-scale, at the power, latency, and bandwidth density of in-package interconnect. 

The white paper continues: ‘Developed in a high-volume GlobalFoundries 45 nanometre process, TeraPHY chiplets integrate millions of transistors with hundreds of photonic devices to drive tens of Tbps of bandwidth up to 2km out of the package with unmatched power efficiency of less than 5pJ/b. Latency is only 10ns + 5ns/m, point-to-point, with no need for repeaters or FEC, allowing designers to create logically connected, physically distributed compute architectures that scale across racks.’

Paul Glaser, vice president and head of Hewlett Packard Pathfinder, HPE’s venture arm said: ‘Ayar Labs represents an exciting investment opportunity for Hewlett Packard Pathfinder as we closely support HPE’s HPC and AI initiatives. Ayar Labs’ optical I/O technology is highly differentiated and critical to the evolution of high-performance computing architectures.’

The collaboration will focus on Ayar Labs’ development of high speed, high density, low power optical-based interconnects to target future generations of HPE Slingshot, an Ethernet fabric specifically designed for HPC and AI solutions. HPE Slingshot is a purpose-built HPC and AI interconnect designed for next-generation technologies, such as the upcoming US Department of Energy exascale supercomputers.

By combining these technologies, the teams hope to design next-generation high-performance networking solutions and novel disaggregated system architectures critical for increased flexibility, efficiency, performance, and throughput to support data-intensive demands of future workloads.

‘We continue to invest in and develop our HPC and AI technologies to further boost application performance for our customers and help them unlock greater value from their research, engineering, and business initiatives,’ noted Hotard. ‘By partnering with Ayar Labs, we will advance innovation for the HPC and AI market, and leverage their expertise in optical I/O in future generations of HPE Slingshot to deliver unprecedented bandwidth and speed, at lower levels of power and latency, to meet requirements for growing demands in scale and performance, added Hotard’

As the industry enters the exascale era, which represents an increase in performance and advanced capabilities for HPC and AI, electrical-based networking offerings will eventually reach bandwidth limits, creating challenges in latency and overall application performance. 

HPE and Ayar Labs plan to develop capabilities that leverage optical I/O to accelerate communication between computing systems. This silicon photonics-based technology uses light instead of electricity to transmit data. 

Optical I/O uniquely changes the performance and power trajectories of system designs by enabling compute, memory and networking ASICs to communicate with dramatically increased bandwidth, at a lower latency, and at a fraction of the power of existing electrical I/O solutions. The technology is also foundational to enabling emerging heterogeneous compute systems, disaggregated, pooled designs, and unified memory architectures that will be critical to accelerating future innovation.

The two organisations also announced today that HPE’s venture arm, Hewlett Packard Pathfinder, has made a strategic investment in Ayar Labs to accelerate the development and adoption of joint future technologies. 

As part of the collaboration, HPE and Ayar Labs will partner on photonics research and commercial development, building a joint ecosystem of solution providers, and customer engagements.

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