For years, the PC business has embraced the blending and matching of processors, growth playing cards, reminiscence, and extra, all to create a modular, expandable platform. Now, a gaggle of corporations desires to do this on the chip degree in what’s referred to as Common Chiplet Interconnect Specific, or UCIe.
UCIe takes the idea of “chiplets”—particular person items of self-contained logic, stitched collectively inside a chip package deal—and opens it as much as the semiconductor business at massive. Each AMD and Intel have achieved this for years: Intel with its co-EMIB and ODI connections, for instance, which gave the world its hybrid chip, Alder Lake. A specialised engineering partnership between AMD and Intel additionally produced an Intel CPU that included an AMD GPU, referred to as “Kaby Lake G“.
Enter UCIe, which is designed to make a future “Kaby Lake G” chip even simpler to fabricate. UCIe transfers information utilizing both the present PCI Specific normal or the associated CXL (Compute Specific Hyperlink) interface utilized by information facilities. Basically, a chip maker may take a CPU core from one firm, a graphics core from one other, and a WiFi radio or 5G radio front-end from a 3rd chip firm, and snap them collectively like LEGO blocks utilizing UCIe, in a lot the identical method you possibly can drop a graphics card or an SSD right into a PC’s PCI Specific slot. With UCIe, this may merely be achieved on the chip degree. (A UCIe white paper (PDF) has extra.)
The membership of UCIe backers features a who’s who of main chip and foundry distributors: AMD, Arm, Superior Semiconductor Engineering, Inc. (ASE), Google Cloud, Intel, Meta/Fb, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung and TSMC. The exception? Nvidia, which has but to formally signal on.
The brand new normal can also be a concession of types, one which acknowledges the calls for of right this moment’s designs merely exceed the business’s capability to bodily manufacture them. For many years, the PC business has tried to design all-in-one PC processors that comprise a CPU, GPU, I/O, and extra, all on a single chip. However bigger and bigger chips present extra alternative for lithography errors that may render the whole chip nugatory. Certainly, UCIe is constructed to anticipate the day when new, hybrid chips would possibly merely be too bodily massive to fabricate utilizing right this moment’s lithographic gear.
“What we’re seeing is that a number of our designs are hitting the reticle restrict because the demand for processing is insatiable, so it’s simpler for us—and by ‘us’ I imply the broader business—to construct smaller chiplets and sew them collectively on the package deal in order that they act as a single entity,” UCIe chair and senior Intel fellow Debendra Das Sharma informed HPCWire. “So this can be a scale up sort of resolution.”
Hypothetically, UCIe would imply that primarily anybody with the suitable licenses and mental property may snap collectively a chip package deal containing logic from any variety of corporations. UCIe additionally means that any variety of small startups may develop specialised logic, package deal them up with a UCIe interface, and promote them to different chip corporations.
To be honest, the chip business has already had this functionality for many years, with programmable logic and FPGAs from corporations like Altera and Xilinx—each just lately acquired by Intel and AMD, curiously sufficient. Which ends up in an attention-grabbing hypothesis: In a decade or so, may Intel and AMD develop into the brand new “PC” builders?
As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft information and chip know-how, amongst different beats. He has previously written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.