IBM and ARM unveil true superfast network chip technology


IBM and ARM unveil true superfast network chip technology

Ian Grant

IBM today announced new semiconductor technology that, combined with UK chip developer ARM's designs, could lead to mobile data networks that could transmit a year's text messages in less than 10 seconds, or download a full-length HD movie to a cellphone in under a minute.

The Cu-32 Custom Logic designed by IBM Research allows chip-makers to increase dramatically the memory capacity and processing speeds of chips used in fibre optic and wireless networks, and in routers and switches.

Key to the breakthrough is IBM's embedded DRAM technology. It enables more than 1Gbyte of memory on a single chip. This provides the most dense on-chip dynamic memory available today, IBM claimed on Tuesday.

"IBM eDRAM performance has advanced to a point where it can replace conventional on-chip static memory (SRAM) in many applications, taking up 60% less space on the chip, and consuming up to 90% less power," the company said in a statement.

"IBM's Cu-32 technology with ARM advanced physical IP enables chip-makers to get powerful system-on-a-chip solutions quickly to market," said Simon Segars, executive vice president and general manager, ARM physical IP division.

Possible wins

The firms said that systems using chips made with Cu-32 could lead to

  • Cellular networks that could move one year's worth of text messages (six trillion, worldwide in 2010) in less than 10 seconds
  • Download a feature-length film to a smart phone in less than 10 seconds, or a HD version in under a minute
  • Routers that could stream every movie ever produced in less than a minute
  • Network equipment makers needed new technology to build devices capable of handling fixed and especially mobile data traffic volumes that were rising exponentially, the firms said.

They said two billion people logged on in 2010, double the number five years ago. The type and number of devices that could access the networks now included TV sets, gaming consoles, GPS locators and MP3 players.

But their traffic would be dwarfed by that generated by machine to machine sensor traffic as the world's energy, transport, health and other infrastructures went online, they said.

"By any measure, from the growing number of mobile users to the explosion we're seeing in data, network traffic will grow at a pace we haven't seen before," said IBM's vice-president for semiconductor products, Mark Ireland.

Cu-32, invented in 1998, offered the semiconductor industry's first set of High Speed Serial (HSS) cores in 32nm silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology including:

  • 15Gbyte backplane core supporting 16Gb Fibre Channel standard
  • 15Gbyte chip-to-chip core supporting low-power optical and chip-to-chip applications
  • 28Gbyte backplane core supporting 32Gb Fibre Channel standard
  • 6Gbyte standards core supporting PCI-Express Gen1 & Gen2 standards
  • PCI-Express Gen3 core supporting PCI-Express Gen1, Gen2, and Gen3 standards

They provide better jitter performance and equalisation support for enhanced system performance with a very low bit error ratio.

IBM also released an eDRAM compiler that can create more than 3,000 designs with memory optimised for applications from high-end servers and networking applications to game processors.

IBM's SOI technology provided up to 25% better chip performance, up to 30% better energy efficiency and up to twice the density compared to 45nm SOI technology, it said.

Design kits for standard cell libraries, memory compilers, eDRAM and supporting Fibre Channel HSS standards were available now, with extra HSS standards availabilities slated for the end of 2010.

Related Topics: PC hardware, VIEW ALL TOPICS

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