IBM Chip Innovations Keep Big Data on the Move

IBM has vastly improved the speeds of 4G and cloud networks by quadrupling the speed of on-chip memory. With Internet bandwidth demand rising fast due to cloud computing and the attendant need to move, analyze and store Big Data, faster on-chip memory technology is critical to avoiding network bottlenecks.

The insatiable demand for bandwidth is putting a strain on the highly customized, system-on-a-chip hardware that forms the backbone of the world’s wired and wireless networks. Optimized for routers, base stations and switches, IBM’s Cu-32 Custom Logic system-on-a-chip (SoC) technology is designed to outpace this demand which could soon reach one terabit-per-second up from 100 gigabits-per-second today.

IBM's embedded DRAM technology provides the most dense on-chip dynamic memory available today, enabling more than 4Gb of memory on a single chip. IBM eDRAM performance has advanced to a point where it can replace conventional on-chip static memory (SRAM) in many applications, taking up 60% less space on the chip, and consuming up to 90% less standby power. Found in IBM POWER7 systems such as "Watson," the question-answering computer of Jeopardy fame, IBM's embedded DRAM helps POWER systems continually add more workload while keeping electricity usage the same.

“IBM's embedded memory technology brings significant performance and power benefits to Brocade’s networking solutions,” said Majid Afshar, VP, Hardware and ASIC Engineering at Brocade, which awarded its 2012 Technology Achievement honors to IBM’s SoC technology.  

“New system-on-a-chip designs will be the key driver of network performance improvement in the near term,” said Jim Rogers, Director of IBM Custom Logic offerings. “These custom chips act as complete systems, and need the ability to access large pools of shared memory to speed processing times. Our new offerings provide network equipment manufacturers breakthrough memory solutions to address requirements for next generation data throughput.”

New additions to IBM’s Cu-32 Custom Logic design system, currently featuring 32nm SOI technology, offer faster packet processing and more memory operations per second.

More on-chip memory with high-performance, trench-based embedded DRAM offerings now enable the integration of more than one gigabit of memory into a single chip for sophisticated SoC solutions. IBM’s embedded DRAM (eDRAM) is two- to three-times denser than typical SRAM memory in use today. It consumes less power and offers significantly lower soft-error rates than embedded SRAM. It is the fastest and densest eDRAM in the industry, achieving up to 600 MHz of random access performance, and up to 1.2GHz cycle times. With IBM’s eDRAM compiler, which can create more than 3,000 configurations, this quickly emerging technology can provide optimized SoC memory solutions for a wide variety of applications.

Fastest memory for network processors.  IBM ternary CAM (TCAM) can help accelerate lookups in high speed routers, switches and other networking hardware. IBM Cu-32 features one of the industry’s fastest and lowest power TCAM offerings, capable of performing up to one billion searches per second while consuming only 0.6W/Mb. Deep-trench (DT) capacitors, with 25X higher capacitive density than planar capacitors,  are embedded within the TCAM to reduce power-supply noise and ensure reliable 1GHz performance. This high speed performance optimizes Cloud Computing by bringing higher throughput application and data delivery for enhanced client experience, improved secure access to cloud resources and results in efficient data center resource utilization and agile management. 

New algorithmic multi-port memory compiler can create a broad range of memory configurations that improve operations-per-second of the underlying memory technology. Dense and low-power eDRAM macros, for example, can be used to create an eDRAM memory-structure alternative to larger, less power-efficient SRAMs; single-port SRAM macros can be used to replace larger, more power-hungry multiport SRAMs. This innovative approach to designing multi-port memory can improve both area and power metrics by two times or more.

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