An Important Milestone in Delivering on the Promise of Optical I/O

by | Aug 25, 2023

Ayar Labs and Intel Showcase the Integration of In-Package Optical I/O with an FPGA at 4 Tbps

At Ayar Labs, we are excited to showcase a meaningful milestone in the maturity and manufacturability of our optical I/O solution. Teaming up with Intel, we have unveiled a groundbreaking integration of our optical I/O technology in a common datacenter form factor, providing a look into the future of computing.

Our TeraPHY™ optical I/O chiplets and SuperNova™ light sources are now seamlessly integrated into the same package with an Intel FPGA, delivered in a standard PCIe card form factor, which we are proudly demonstrating at four key industry events — ERI 2.0 Summit,  Hot Chips 2023, GF Technology Summit 2023, and SC23. This achievement brings together our solution’s design, fabrication, packaging, and overall integration, in a standard form factor, enabling usage models across multiple applications and computing platforms.

FPGAs with Optical Ports

Since our initial 4 Terabits per second (Tbps) demonstration at OFC in March, we have quickly evolved to achieving 4-Tbps bidirectional bandwidth in a multi-chip package. Developing a 4-Tbps FPGA with in-package optical I/O marks a significant milestone in the field. While FPGAs connected to pluggable optics have existed for some time, they traditionally rely on Ethernet, with current pluggable optics typically providing 100- or 400-Gbps speeds. The integration of optics in-package allows us to accelerate performance up to 4-Tbps, and without the Ethernet latency hit.

We are demonstrating an optical FPGA consisting of two TeraPHY optical I/O chiplets, each capable of 4 Tbps bi-directional bandwidth. These chiplets are connected to a 10 nm FPGA fabric die — the same core fabric used in Intel® Agilex® FPGAs. The optical communication is powered by two SuperNova light source modules, supporting 64 optical channels of high-speed, error-free communication across 8 fibers on each chiplet.

Incorporating optical I/O ports directly in an FPGA provides more flexibility in designing high-throughput communication systems by replacing electrical interface bottlenecks with error-free, high-speed optical links. Each TeraPHY chiplet has 8 Tx and 8 Rx communication links, totaling 16 Tx and 16 Rx fibers of communication to and from each interconnected FPGA. The result is a system containing 32 Tx and 32 Rx optical links, with each TeraPHY chiplet capable of sending and receiving 2 Tbps in each direction simultaneously.

Working with Intel to Advance FPGA Innovation

This latest development is part of a long-standing, ongoing collaboration between our two companies, marking a significant step forward in our efforts to scale up optical I/O solutions. It illustrates the value that optical I/O brings at a time when large scale system resources must act as one, requiring high speed connectivity between all resources . Demonstrating Intel’s FPGA technology with our in-package optical I/O solution opens possibilities for an entirely new set of customer solutions to address bandwidth, power, and latency issues now and in the future.

“At Intel, we pursue relentless innovation with our FPGA portfolio. With Ayar Labs’ in-package optics coupled with our FPGA fabric die, we created I/O bandwidth over 4 Tbps — far greater than what is currently possible with electrical connections. We’re looking well beyond 400G Ethernet with this capability. Optical interfaces like these have the potential to unlock huge advancements in high performance computing, AI, data centers, sensing, communications, edge, and more. Imagine what you could do with an optical interface FPGA communicating at over 4 Terabits per second.”

– Venkat Yadavalli,
VP and GM, Product Excellence Group, Intel Corporation

The integration work with Intel is also noteworthy in developing heterogeneous chiplet-based architectures, combining chips in different process nodes and technologies from different vendors into a single package. Notably, this co-packaged integration development does not require any change to Intel’s FPGA, the core computing component.

The electrical interface between the Intel FPGA and the Ayar Labs’ TeraPHY optical I/O chiplet is AIB (Advanced Interface Bus), a low-power and low-latency wide parallel interface. AIB is a precursor to UCIe™ (Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express), an open industry standard that defines the interconnects between chiplets within a package. UCIe has broad industry support and will allow us to scale our designs for many years to come.

Enabling Next-Generation Applications

So, what will this achievement mean for the future of FPGA applications? By integrating optically connected FPGAs, we can unlock the potential of optimizing massive computing and AI applications, allowing efficient operation with reduced energy consumption compared to traditional systems. Moreover, this advancement brings exciting new opportunities for new system architectures in areas such as AI hardware and software at the network edge, radar sensor applications, and telecom system architecture.

  • Edge computing and AI processing: The combination of edge computing and AI processing enables real-time monitoring of events in security systems. For example, an optical FPGA’s compute power facilitates image and video preprocessing before transfer, enhancing overall efficiency.
  • Sensor applications: In radar systems and other sensor applications, the need for faster computing is critical to ensure rapid and accurate solutions in bigger and more complex environments. In scenarios where a few nanoseconds could mean the success or failure of a mission, optically connected FPGAs offer the required computational power to enable timely decision-making.
  • Telecom system architectures: The introduction of optical FPGAs presents a fundamental change in telecom system architecture, significantly reducing the physical footprint of equipment such as the radio heads used in communication towers.

Expanding Opportunities and Industry Adoption

Integration of our optical I/O solution with an FPGA is just the start. This milestone highlights the immense implications for various industries and serves as proof of our successful partnership with Intel. Our vision is to enable new architectural advances with ubiquitous optical interconnects for every piece of compute silicon.

If you are attending Hot Chips Aug. 27-29, be sure to visit the Ayar Labs and Intel demo tables for an exclusive look at our optical FPGA demonstration. At Supercomputing, Nov. 12-17, stop by booth #228. Not attending the events? No problem! You can also check out our optical FPGA demo with Intel in this video.

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