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IBM connects chips for better bandwidth
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Written by Gizmo   
Thursday, 12 April 2007 11:38

ZDNet

IBM will link chips together in a relatively new way that the company says will improve performance and cut power consumption.

The technology, called through-silicon vias, or TSV, involves connecting different components--processors and memory, for example--or different cores inside of two respective chips through thousands of tiny wires that will carry data back and forth. Now, chips mostly transfer data over channels called buses, which can get overwhelmed, embodied in wires. With TSV, far more data can be transferred per second in a less energy-intensive manner.

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IBM is not the first company to talk about TSV (Intel is), but could be one of the first to commercially exploit them. IBM will deliver samples of communication chips with TSV to customers later this year and begin commercial production in 2008. TSV will reduce power consumption in silicon germanium chips, a favorite of IBM's, by around 40 percent. In these chips, microscopic holes will be drilled into the chip and filled with tungsten to create the TSVs.

"Wire bonds have pretty high levels of noise, which can limit the capability of some of the transistors," said Lisa Su, vice president for IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center.

In three to five years, TSV could also be used to join memory directly to its power processors, obviating the need for another component called a memory controller. TSV in this scenario, could improve performance by 10 percent and reduce power consumption by 20 percent. IBM also hopes to bring it to the chips in its BlueGene supercomputers.

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