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A new standard could let companies build processors out of Lego-like chiplets

A new standard could let companies build processors out of Lego-like chiplets

The world's largest chipmakers are coming together to create a new Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIE) system to integrate chiplets together in future semiconductor designs.

Nearly every major name in processor technology is onboard with the standardization effort, including foundry owners such as Intel, TSMC, and Samsung, and major players in semiconductor-adjacent spaces such as AMD, Arm, Qualcomm, Meta, Google Cloud, and Microsoft.

As the name suggests, UCIe is aiming to take the same broader ecosystem model PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) has been used for years, which has been expanded into chiplets – smaller, more specialized chips. which only perform certain specific functions.

The goal with UCIe is to create a standard for linking chiplets together, making it easier for companies to mix and match different chiplet components when creating SoCs. The idea is that tech companies will be able to easily slot individual Chiplet components into their designs, in the same way you can easily slot in any PCI compatible accessory on your computer (even though each part makes a separate individual). regardless of different companies).

Broadly speaking, there are two ways to build a modern System-on-a-Chip (SoC). Integrated monolithic chips, the most traditional method, pack all the bits and pieces of a semiconductor into a single printed piece of silicon.

Chiplets take a different approach. Instead of building one big chip with all the components, chiplets break things down into smaller components which are then combined into a larger processor.

There are some advantages to the chipotle system. There may be less waste than chiplets (for example, if one core doesn't work, it's easier to throw away one of two eight-core chiplets than it would a full 16-core monolithic chip). There are also benefits to chip design, allowing companies to reduce critical components (such as CPU cores) to new, smaller processing nodes, without reducing the entirety of the SoC. Finally, merging chiplets together allows companies to make larger chips than a single, monolithic design.

AMD's recent Zen 2 and Zen 3-based Ryzen chips are some of the most prominent examples of modern chiplet design: each Zen 3 processor, for example, is made from a combined 7nm eight-core chiplet for CPU/GPU components from TSMC. . With I/O chiplets built on older nodes from GlobalFoundries.

However, the UCIE project is still at a very early stage. Right now, the standardization process is focused on establishing rules for linking chiplets together into comprehensive packages. But there are plans to create a UCIE industry organization that will eventually help define the next generation of UCI technology, which includes "chiplet form factor, management, enhanced security and other necessary protocols" in the future.

This means that there could one day be an entire Chiplet ecosystem that will let companies build a custom SoC by shopping around for different components to suit their needs – just like you would build a gaming PC. And that's a huge advantage for companies like AMD or Qualcomm as they look to design and manufacture even more powerful and complex chips going forward (which, in turn, is good for foundries like TSMC and Samsung to come on board). inspiration.)

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