GF Innovation is Moving Data at Light Speed

It wasn’t that long ago that we stored personal data on our home computer, and work data on our work computer or a company network. If we needed something to be portable, we’d save it on a portable drive, or sign into our company’s network remotely, which wasn’t always a fast, smooth or easy process.

At least for our personal, non-work content, each of us managed our own data. Our personal computer or Mac also functioned as our own personal data center. And retrieving files usually wasn’t a speedy transaction.

Today we live in the age of the cloud, where we can access massive volumes of music, photos, videos, email, work and personal files from anywhere with Wi-Fi access, and depending on how our hardware is equipped, maybe even with 5G cellular service.

Data Center

So where exactly is this mysterious cloud? How big is it? Can we see it? How can it store data for billions of people that previously stored it themselves?

When it comes to technology and data, nothing operates in a vacuum, nor is it a self-sustaining island. Anything with technology and data is part of a broader system of interdependencies, where a change in one area has a rippling impact in other areas.

Smartphones being able to do more drive not only more data, but the need for more capacity for that data. Devices, electronics, appliances and more connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) create more data. Working and learning from home is creating more data. More data drives a need for ways to not only be accommodate greater volumes of data, but transport, store, analyze and compute data faster, easier, more reliably and less expensively. On top of all of that, the solution needs to be able to fight off the latest and increasingly cunning attempts to be accessed by unwelcome intruders.

We are living in an age where the volume of data has exploded, and demand for quality transmission of data continuously grows. In 2009, the average data speed in the U.S. was five megabits per second (Mbps).1 At the time, it was an impressive technological achievement. Today, the average speed in the U.S. is nearly 100 Mbps.2 And the speed and expectations are only moving in one direction – up.

“The cloud” is actually not one location, nor is it in the sky. It is made up of thousands of data centers located around the world, each a building with row upon row of servers, storing, analyzing, processing and computing peoples’ data.3 Data centers are also equipped with telecommunications systems and other infrastructure, facilitating access to it.

New data centers are being constructed at a rapid pace, and real estate for this purpose continues to be acquired, showing that a peak is nowhere in sight. The world’s largest data center is the size of 110 U.S. football fields.4 The country of Iceland has had so many data centers built in a short time that in 2016, it contributed nearly one percent to its gross domestic product (GDP).5 And growth of the cloud as the place to store data is expected to grow at a brisk pace for the next several years.6

Data center industry faces new challenges

Cloud computing has presented the data center management industry with several needs:

  • Using silicon photonics to move, process and compute data, an area where GlobalFoundries® (GF®) is further along than any other company. Silicon photonics (SiPh) involves the use of silicon as the primary fabrication element to manufacture semiconductor chips with photonic integrated circuits (PICs). It is based on using photons rather than electrons for transporting and computing, enabling high-speed processing at significantly lower power. 
  • Reducing the amount of time it takes for data to get to its destination (in this case the data center itself) and back, known as latency 
  • Supporting the transition from 4G to 5G 
  • Decreasing power consumption as data center electric bills reach new highs 

“Our customers are telling us that their power bills are through the roof, and they need solutions,” said Hiren Majmudar, vice president of Compute Business at GlobalFoundries. “They are looking for ways to make their existing hardware work better and more efficiently, because deploying faster hardware results in higher power consumption and lower efficiency, which will raise costs even higher.”

GF innovation is helping data centers take on their toughest challenges

“GF is meeting our customers’ needs through innovative features, silicon processes and using existing technologies in new and exciting ways,” said Anthony Yu, vice president of Computing and Wired Infrastructure at GlobalFoundries. “We are successfully using silicon photonics in complex and challenging solutions and have demonstrated our ability to build new solutions to scale for data centers.”

GF is reshaping computing and data center architecture by delivering a new generation of solutions known as silicon photonics and ReDriver high performance silicon-geranium (SiGe) alloy solutions, which will help transform computing capability in this decade and beyond.

Moving at light speed with silicon photonics

Historically, photonics has been used with a different type of semiconductor chip. But GF innovators have been able to make the material work at scale with 300 mm-based silicon wafers, taking advantage of the large-scale foundry experience in complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) manufacturing.

“GF has discovered a way to combine photonics on the same chip as high-speed CMOS to move data,” Yu added. “Our solutions are using photonics within data centers, between data centers and now between chips at data rates eight times higher per channel.”

At its annual Technology Summit, held virtually on Sept. 15, 2021, GF extended its silicon photonics manufacturing leadership by announcing that its new Silicon Photonics Solutions 45nm platform has passed critical technology milestones and is on track for full technology qualification by the first quarter of 2022. The monolithic platform, combining radio frequency (RF) CMOS and optical components on the same chip, includes availability of the first micro ring resonator (MRR) optical component in 300 mm wafer technology. GF is engaged with leading partners on this new platform.

ReDrivers driving better performance

ReDrivers are advanced analog devices that guarantee signal integrity. As peripheral component interconnect express (PCIe) and USB interface speeds are increasing, ReDrivers are becoming an increasingly needed solution in data center servers and consumer electronic devices.

GF’s High-Performance SiGe is accelerating ReDriver growth by offering a full portfolio of SiGe processes at various performance and price points. In addressing PAM4 (pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) technology using four signal levels for transmission) ReDriver requirements, GF is expanding its SiGe portfolio with state-of-the-art high performance complementary BiCMOS (a semiconductor technology that integrates two formerly separate semiconductor technologies, those of the bipolar junction transistor and the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) gate, in a single integrated circuit device) technology.

GF is adding a 300mm SiGe process to accommodate ReDriver accelerated growth.

Power delivery – Better data center performance while saving power

Conventional power delivery solutions account for significant power loss in data centers, limiting the speed that they can process and analyze data. GF’s BCD/BCDLite® smart power delivery solutions address that problem head-on, making it possible to realize power efficiencies that translate into better data computing and artificial intelligence (AI) performance. By doing more with less hardware, GF technology is reducing data center operating budgets, which cost companies more over the long-term than their initial hardware investment.

The inefficiencies of a conventional, discrete, component-based solutions limit processor performance. GF’s customization of power delivery solutions with market leaders and drivers enables low on-resistance (Ron) switching devices, high current inductors and high-density capacitors. These GF solutions are unique in that they are enabled in the same technology platform optimized for data center power delivery.

To learn more about how GF solutions are addressing the needs of the data center industry, please click here.