As we close out Q3 2022, I want to take a step back and look at how Ayar Labs and the optical I/O ecosystem have been evolving and what’s coming next. Ayar Labs was founded in 2015; we created our first prototypes in 2018; we gave our first public demonstrations in 2019; and we began our first volume shipments in 2022. We’ve been told by many that we are at least two years ahead of others in this space.
In fact, we are describing 2022 as our “year of commercialization.” What this means is that we’re ensuring all the pieces required to scale to full production volumes are in place. What do I mean when I say, “all the pieces are in place”? Well, there’s a world of difference between creating a one-off prototype as compared to building fully tested production devices.
Leading-edge ASIC customers are integrating our TeraPHY™ optical I/O chiplets into the same package as their host device.
Initially, our focus was on proving our technology. Since 2015, we’ve been working with GlobalFoundries (GF) to build a next-generation process optimized for photonics and electronics. The GF Fotonix platform recently qualified for commercial readiness, which means the platform meets yield, process, and reliability metrics and demonstrates process design kit (PDK) maturity.
Over the last few years our focus transitioned to building our supply chain and growing our ecosystem to support our solution at scale. The companies who use our technology demand quality and reliability. In order for us to become a reliable link in their supply chains, our customers need to know that our own supply chains are secure, with second and third sources for critical elements in our products. In the case of the laser arrays that power our SuperNova™ light source, we now have agreements with three of the world’s leading laser suppliers: Lumentum, MACOM, and Sivers.
OSATs (outsourced semiconductor assembly and test) offer third-party IC packaging and test services. Since we need to deliver our chiplets as known good die (KGD), we’ve recently made significant capital equipment purchases for things like wafer testers; we’ve hired test, validation, and quality engineers; and we’ve developed a sophisticated suite comprising thousands of tests to exercise both the optical and electrical interfaces of our chiplets. All of this is being rolled out to our OSATs for volume production.
Ayar Labs milestones.
A key part of commercialization is supporting industry standards. There’s an old engineering joke that goes: “Standards are great; everyone should have one!” The problem is that you can have too much of a good thing because it can be difficult to support myriad diverse standards. To be honest, we’ve been very lucky in this area. Just a few years ago, the standards landscape for the electrical interface portion of the optical I/O chiplet market was overcrowded, with multiple serial contenders (PCI Express, CXL, OIF) and multiple parallel contenders (Chips Alliance, Open Compute Project, JEDEC).
More recently, however, the semiconductor industry has started to coalesce on just two main standards: Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe) and Compute Express Link (CXL) for the electrical interface portion of optical I/O chiplets.
Ayar Labs is a contributor member of UCIe and an adopter member of CXL. In fact, we produced the first optical I/O chiplet for the UCIe standard. It is a WDM optical chiplet using the AIB electrical interface, which is part of the UCIe standard. The UCIe group is already starting work on defining an optical interconnect portion of the standard, reflecting the fact that there’s now recognition in the industry that optical interconnect is destined to play a major role in the very near future.
Optical I/O ecosystem.
In addition to the electrical interface, the CW-WDM MSA (Continuous-Wave Wavelength Division Multiplexing Multi-Source Agreement) was formed to standardize CW WDM sources for emerging advanced integrated optics applications. The use of multiple wavelengths is driven by the bandwidth requirements of emerging applications such as artificial intelligence (AI), high-performance computing (HPC), and high-density optics, and they enable a leap in performance, efficiency, cost, and bandwidth scaling compared with other technologies. One important aspect of CW-WDM is that fiber count is eight times lower than a typical single wavelength per fiber.
Ayar Labs is one of the founding members of the CW-WDM MSA. The goal is to marry this standard to the optical interface portions of the CXL and UCIe specifications, thereby allowing optical I/O chiplets from multiple vendors to communicate with each other.
Talk is cheap. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” as they say. At ECOC 2022 in the Sivers Photonics booth (#616), we are giving a live demonstration of our CW-WDM-based SuperNova light source with an integrated Sivers Photonics eight-wavelength distributed feedback (DFB) laser array. It would be great to meet you there so you can hear first-hand how 2022 is the year of commercialization for Ayar Labs.