Demo of world’s first optical network-on-chip processor

Demo of world’s first optical network-on-chip processor

New Products |
By Nick Flaherty

Lightelligence is to show the world’s first Optical Network-on-Chip (oNOC) processor designed for domain-specific artificial intelligence (AI) workloads in August.

The Hummingbird chip uses vertically stacked packaging to integrate a photonic chip and an electronic chip into one package serving as the communications network for data centres and other high-performance applications.

Hummingbird is the first in a family of products based on Lightelligence’s oNOC platform, which significantly improves computing performances by enabling innovative interconnect topologies via silicon photonics. Its waveguides support an all-to-all data broadcast network to each core on a 64-core domain-specific AI processor chip, giving Hummingbird significant advantages in latency and power reduction over traditional digital interconnect solutions.

In oNOC, power and latency are virtually unaffected by distance and so do not rely on nearest neighbour communication. This supports higher utilization of compute power even in a single electronic IC configuration due to more efficient communication.

With oNOC, mapping workloads to hardware becomes easier and provides greater freedom to select the right topology for the computing task. In Hummingbird, a low-latency optical all-to-all broadcast network spans 64 cores. With 64 transmitters and 512 receivers, Hummingbird provides a framework to implement a variety of dense optical network topologies.

Hummingbird’s electronic and photonic ICs are co-packaged and integrated into a PCIe card for installation in industry-standard servers. Coupled with the Lightelligence Software Development Kit (SDK), machine learning and AI workloads can be optimized to take full advantage of the oNOC. oNOC and Hummingbird IP can also be customized for workloads and applications.

Future generations of Hummingbird will employ reticle-stitching to support chiplet architectures to enable better scalability, improve energy efficiency, and further reduce bottlenecks.

The first public demonstration of Hummingbird will be at Hot Chips August 27-29 at Stanford University.

“Photonics is the solution to the critical compute scaling problem, which has become pressing as the traditional solutions struggle to keep up with the exponential growth of compute power demand spurred by breakthroughs in the AI industry,” said Yichen Shen, CEO of Lightelligence.

Hummingbird is Lightelligence’s second product in its photonic computing portfolio. Its Photonic Arithmetic Computing Engine (PACE) platform released in late-2021 integrates photonics and electronics in a small form factor leveraging custom 3D packaging and seamless co-design.

PCIe add-in cards along with Lightelligence SDK will be available in Q3 2023.

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