Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Astera demos PCIe optical connectivity for expansive GPU clusters

Astera Labs has demonstrated end-to-end PCIe optical connectivity to provide unprecedented reach for larger, disaggregated GPU clusters.

The company’s technology for PCIe over optics expands its Aries family of Smart DSP Retimers and Smart Cable Modules (SCMs) for Active Electrical Cables (AECs) to deliver PCIe and CXL connectivity in chip-to-chip, box-to-box, rack-to-rack, and now row-to-row topologies throughout the data center.

Astera Labs said its new technology for PCIe over optics operates with end-to-end PCIe link connectivity in compliance with current PCIe specifications and is flexible enough to address future standards requirements through software-enabled configurability. The company is collaborating with leading optical cable suppliers to enable a wide variety of industry-standard form factors.

In addition, Astera Labs’ COSMOS software suite has been enhanced to provide link, fleet, and RAS management features over optical links, delivering deep insights into every lane and link inside a cluster to facilitate maximum uptime and optimal infrastructure utilization. Customers already using Astera Labs’ Intelligent Connectivity Platform will be able to seamlessly and transparently enable optical interconnects.

Casey Morrison, Chief Product Officer at Astera Labs, said, “GPU clusters are growing in size to handle the expanding complexities of AI workloads within disaggregated cloud infrastructure. We’re proud to broaden our PCIe leadership once again by demonstrating robust PCIe links over optical interconnects between GPUs, CPUs, CXL memory devices, and other PCIe endpoints. This breakthrough expands our Intelligent Connectivity Platform to allow customers to seamlessly scale and extend high bandwidth, low latency PCIe interconnects over optics, including Active Optical Cables, in addition to copper-based AECs.”

Large AI models benefit from tightly clustering more GPUs over a backend mesh network, often using PCIe interfaces that are natively found on GPUs. Larger GPU clusters must be distributed beyond a single rack to meet power delivery and cooling requirements. PCIe optical interconnects are essential to scale PCIe-based GPU clusters to multiple racks and rows, improve AI model performance, and increase GPU utilization.


Black Semiconductor raises EUR 254.4 million for graphene PICs

Black Semiconductor, a start-up based in Aachen, Germany, announced €254.4 million in funding, marking one of the largest investments for a deep tech company manufacturing chips in Europe to date.

The company is targeting optical chip-to-chip connections using graphene as an intermediate layer to integrate optics with electronics. Black Semiconductor asserts that graphene, a material just one atom thick and known for its superior optical, electrical, and thermal properties, is key to enabling the co-integration of electronics and optics. "Graphene outperforms any other material system, opening the door to products that were previously inaccessible," the company stated. "Our solution combines computing with electrons and communication with photons, which we believe could enable parallel optical chip connectivity over distances of up to kilometers."

Black Semiconductor has secured €228.7 million in public funding from the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia over the next seven years under the IPCEI ME/CT2 program. Additionally, the company has raised €25.7 million in equity funding. This round was led by Porsche Ventures and Project A Ventures, with participation from leading venture capital firms, corporates, and industry leaders including Scania Growth Capital, Capnamic, Tech Vision Fonds, and NRW.BANK, joining the seed round investors Vsquared Ventures, Cambium Capital, and Hermann Hauser’s Onsight Ventures.

Founded in 2020 by Dr. Daniel Schall and Sebastian Schall, Black Semiconductor plans to use the new capital to accelerate its R&D initiatives and establish pilot line manufacturing capabilities in Aachen by 2026—an essential step towards its long-term goal of producing and implementing high-quality graphene in Europe. The company also aims to increase its headcount from 30 to 120 by 2026.


Global Telco AI Alliance builds Multilingual Telco LLM

SK Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel, and SoftBank Corp., the founding members of the Global Telco AI Alliance (GTAA), have signed a Joint Venture agreement at TM Forum's DTW24-Ignite. This follows the announcement made at MWC Barcelona 2024 to establish a Joint Venture, marking the founding parties' commitment to co-develop and launch multilingual Large Language Models (Telco LLM) specifically tailored for telecommunications companies. The Telco LLM aims to enhance customer interactions through digital assistants and other innovative AI solutions.

The Joint Venture will see equal investments from the founding parties to support its initial working capital requirements. The Telco LLM will cater to a global customer base of approximately 1.3 billion people across 50 countries, offering multilingual capabilities in languages such as Korean, English, German, Arabic, and Bahasa, among others. The launch of the Joint Venture is pending customary regulatory approvals. The focus will be on deploying innovative AI applications tailored to the unique needs of each founding party's market.

The second Global Telco AI Roundtable (GTAR) was also held at DTW24, emphasizing the GTAA’s dedication to innovation and collaboration in the telecom industry. SKT’s CEO Ryu Young-sang highlighted the transformative potential of AI in telecoms, positioning the Global Telco AI Alliance as a key player in the global AI ecosystem. He stressed the importance of creating new business opportunities and enhancing customer experiences through the Telco LLM JV while addressing social and environmental responsibilities through effective AI governance frameworks.

Key Points:

  • SK Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel, and SoftBank Corp. sign Joint Venture agreement at TM Forum's DTW24-Ignite.
  • Joint Venture to develop multilingual Large Language Models (Telco LLM) tailored for telecommunications.
  • Equal investments from founding parties to support initial working capital requirements.
  • Telco LLM to cater to a global customer base of 1.3 billion across 50 countries.
  • Second Global Telco AI Roundtable reaffirms GTAA’s commitment to innovation, collaboration, and effective AI governance.


SNS Telecom & IT: Private 5G market to grow at 42% CAGR to 2027

 Private LTE networks have been a niche market for over a decade, with early installations like iNET's 700 MHz LTE network in the Permian Basin and Rio Tinto's network in Western Australia. However, private cellular networks based on the 3GPP-defined 5G standard are now advancing from Proof-of-Concept (PoC) trials to production-grade implementations. These standalone 5G networks are set to lay the foundation for Industry 4.0 and advanced application scenarios, offering significant improvements over LTE in terms of throughput, latency, reliability, and connection density. Despite initial challenges, early adopters are seeing tangible benefits, affirming the long-term potential of private 5G networks, according to a recently published study by SNS Telecom & IT.

SNS Telecom & IT estimates that annual investments in private 5G networks for vertical industries will grow at a CAGR of approximately 42% between 2024 and 2027, eventually accounting for nearly $3.5 Billion by the end of 2027. 

Compared to LTE, private 5G networks can meet more demanding performance requirements. They offer capabilities like Ultra-Reliable, Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) and Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC), making them a viable alternative to wired connections for industrial-grade communications. Despite higher costs, 5G's wider coverage, scalability, and security features have attracted strong interest for use in Industrial IoT (IIoT) environments. China leads in this adoption, with large-scale private 5G installations supporting complex industrial operations. As digitization initiatives ramp up globally, private 5G networks are being implemented for diverse use cases, showing practical benefits in efficiency, cost savings, and worker safety.

Some Highlights

  • Private LTE networks have been in use for over a decade, particularly in niche segments like mining and offshore infrastructure.
  • Private 5G networks are moving beyond PoC trials to full-scale deployments, providing the foundation for Industry 4.0.
  • Private 5G networks offer superior performance in terms of throughput, latency, reliability, and connection density compared to LTE.
  • 5G's URLLC and mMTC capabilities support industrial-grade communications, making it a viable alternative to wired connections.
  • China leads with large-scale private 5G installations, while other countries are also increasing their adoption for digitization and automation.
  • Diverse Use Cases: Applications include wirelessly connected machinery, autonomous mobile robots, augmented reality, remote-controlled cranes, and digital twin models.
  • Challenges: Early adopters face challenges like high costs, limited device variety, and lack of cellular wireless systems competence.
  • Long-Term Potential: Despite initial challenges, early adopters are seeing tangible benefits, affirming the long-term potential of private 5G networks.

The “Private 5G Networks: 2024 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts” report presents an in-depth assessment of the private 5G network market, including the value chain, market drivers, barriers to uptake, enabling technologies, operational and business models, vertical industries, application scenarios, key trends, future roadmap, standardization, spectrum availability and allocation, regulatory landscape, case studies, ecosystem player profiles and strategies. The report also presents global and regional market size forecasts from 2024 to 2030. The forecasts cover three infrastructure submarkets, 16 vertical industries and five regional markets.

More info here:


Datagrid surveys route for subsea cable linking NZ and Australia

Datagrid New Zealand has initiated a research project with international marine survey company EGS Survey to find the shortest and most secure route for the proposed 2,700km Te Waipounamu submarine cable between the South Island of New Zealand and Australia, linking Invercargill to Sydney and Melbourne. Datagrid, which is developing a 43-hectare sustainable data center park in Makarewa, aims to provide direct connectivity to Australia, enhancing internet speeds and digital infrastructure for the South Island.

The Te Waipounamu submarine cable is expected to significantly boost the digital development of cities like Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, Nelson, and Invercargill, transforming Invercargill into a regional digital hub. The cable will also enhance New Zealand's network resiliency by offering backup to existing North Island cables. Perrine Dhalluin, CEO of Datagrid, emphasized the strategic importance of the cable for faster internet and regional digital growth. EGS Survey, with 48 years of geophysical surveying experience, will conduct a detailed desktop study to determine the optimal route across the Tasman Sea, ensuring maximum diversity and reliability. An optional branch to Hobart, Tasmania, is also being considered to provide further connectivity options.

Key Points:

  • Companies Involved: Datagrid New Zealand and EGS Survey.
  • Project Goal: To find the shortest and most secure route for the Te Waipounamu submarine cable.
  • Significance: First international submarine cable connecting South Island, NZ, to Australia.
  • Impact: Enhanced internet speed, digital development, and network resiliency for the South Island.
  • Additional Consideration: Potential branch to Hobart, Tasmania, for increased connectivity.
  • The project is named after the Maori term for the South Island


TM and Singtel's Nxera plan 200 MW data center campus near Singapore

 TM (Telekom Malaysia) has announced a strategic joint venture with Nxera, the regional data center arm of Singtel’s Digital InfraCo unit, to develop state-of-the-art data centers in Malaysia. The first project under this partnership is a sustainable, hyper-connected AI-ready data center campus in Johor. This venture aims to cater to the growing demands of hyperscalers, next-generation AI application providers, and enterprises pursuing accelerated digitalization and cloud services in the region. Leveraging TM's extensive subsea cable networks and Singtel’s global connectivity, the collaboration promises enhanced network performance with lower latency and improved reliability.

The data center campus, located in Iskandar Puteri, just 16 km from Singapore, will be the largest for both TM and Nxera. It is designed to meet the highest standards of reliability, security, and sustainability, offering superior local and international connectivity. The proximity to subsea cable links between Singapore and Malaysia positions it well to support the increasing digitalization efforts of both nations. The initial phase of the data center will have a capacity of 64MW, scalable up to 200MW, featuring advanced technologies like liquid cooling to support high-power density workloads efficiently. The facility will also be LEED-certified, underscoring its commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable practices.


  • Strategic Partnership: TM partners with Nxera to develop hyper-connected AI-ready data centers in Malaysia, starting with a major facility in Johor.
  • Advanced Infrastructure: Initial phase of 64MW, scalable to 200MW, featuring liquid cooling and LEED certification for energy efficiency.
  • Enhanced Connectivity: Proximity to subsea cable links ensures superior local and international connectivity.
  • TM’s Data Centers: TM operates seven data centers across Malaysia, with key locations in Klang Valley and Johor.
  • Nxera’s Expansion: Nxera, backed by Singtel and KKR, is developing additional AI-ready data centers, increasing its capacity to over 200MW in the next three years.
  • This partnership marks a significant step forward in enhancing Malaysia’s data infrastructure, positioning the country as a key player in the regional digital economy.


Three UK gains energy efficiency at base stations with Ericsson

Three UK has reached a significant milestone in network sustainability through the deployment of next-generation AI-powered hardware and software solutions from Ericsson. Over the past 18 months, Three UK has collaborated with Ericsson to enhance network energy performance using industry-leading energy-efficient radios and advanced AI and data analytics.

In late 2023, Three UK became one of the first major UK operators to deploy Ericsson’s award-winning dual-band Radio 4490, which is 25% lighter and consumes less power than previous models. This technology simplifies site access and expedites upgrades. Additionally, Three UK has implemented software features that reduce power consumption during low traffic hours, leveraging advanced machine learning, passive cooling, and power-saving functionalities. These radios autonomously switch off components when inactive and reactivate them in microseconds for service requests.

Key Points:

  • Three UK deploys Ericsson’s energy-efficient dual-band Radio 4490, reducing power consumption and site weight.
  • Software features implemented to lower power use during low traffic hours with AI and machine learning.
  • Advanced radios autonomously manage 4G and 5G networks, enhancing efficiency.
  • Partnership with Ericsson improves network energy efficiency by up to 70% at selected sites, while reducing CO2 emissions.


ST Telemedia Global Data Centres raises US$1.3B from KKR and Singtel

ST Telemedia Global Data Centres (STT GDC), a leading data center colocation services provider, announced a significant investment from a consortium led by KKR and Singtel. The consortium will invest SGD 1.75 billion (~USD 1.3 billion) initially through Redeemable Preference Shares (RPS) with detachable warrants. This investment represents the largest digital infrastructure deal in Southeast Asia in 2024. Upon full exercise of the warrants, the consortium will contribute an additional SGD 1.24 billion (~USD 920 million).

The investment follows an independent competitive selection process by STT and STT GDC, focusing on the consortium’s expertise, financial strength, and strategic vision. The funds will support STT GDC's ongoing international expansion and growth plans through both organic and inorganic strategies. Post-transaction, ST Telemedia will retain its position as the majority shareholder of STT GDC.

STT GDC, headquartered in Singapore, is among the world's fastest-growing data center providers, operating over 95 data centers across 11 countries and serving more than 20 major business markets. With a combined capacity of over 1.7GW of IT load, STT GDC offers high-quality colocation, connectivity, and round-the-clock support services, solidifying its critical role in the digital infrastructure landscape.

Key Points:

  • Investment Details: SGD 1.75 billion (~USD 1.3 billion) initially, with a potential additional SGD 1.24 billion (~USD 920 million) from the KKR-led consortium.
  • Selection Process: Chosen for their expertise, financial strength, and strategic vision.
  • STT GDC Profile: Headquartered in Singapore, with 95+ data centers in 11 countries and over 1.7GW of IT load capacity.
  • Strategic Use: Funds to support international expansion and growth, maintaining ST Telemedia as the majority shareholder.
  • Industry Impact: Largest digital infrastructure investment in Southeast Asia for 2024.


onsemi plans silicon carbide fab in Czech Republic

onsemi announced plans to establish a state-of-the-art, vertically integrated silicon carbide (SiC) manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic to produce intelligent power semiconductors for use in electric vehicles, renewable energy and AI data centers.

Silicon carbide is a critical material for high-power, high-temperature applications, and is extremely difficult to produce. onsemi is one of the only companies in the world with the ability to manufacture SiC-based semiconductors from crystal growth to advanced packaging solutions.

onsemi’s plan to expand SiC manufacturing with a multi-year brownfield investment of up to $2 billion (44 billion CZK) is part of the company’s previously disclosed long-term capital expenditure target. This investment would build on the company’s current operations in the Czech Republic, which include silicon crystal growth, silicon and silicon carbide wafer manufacturing (polished and EPI) and a silicon wafer fab. Today, the site can produce more than three million wafers annually, including more than one billion power devices. Upon completion, the operation would contribute annually more than $270 million USD (6 billion CZK) to the country’s GDP.

"Our brownfield investment would establish a Central European supply chain to better service our customers’ rapidly increasing demand for innovative technologies that improve the energy efficiency in their applications,” said Hassane El-Khoury, president and CEO, onsemi. “Through a close collaboration with the Czech government, the expansion would also enhance our production of intelligent power semiconductors that are essential to helping ensure the European Union is able to achieve its ambitions to significantly reduce carbon emissions and environmental impact.”