Researchers sponsored by the Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC, Research Triangle Park, N.C.) claim they have extended Moore's Law by finding a way to cut serial link power by as much as 80 percent. The innovation at the University of Illinois (Urbana) is a new on/off transceiver to be used on chips, between chips, between boards and between servers at data centers.
The team estimates the technique can reduce power up to whopping 44 times for communications, extending Moore's Law by increasing computational capacity without increasing power. “While this technique isn't designed to push processors to go faster, it does, in the context of a datacenter, allow for power saved in the link budget to be used elsewhere,” David Yeh, SRC director of Integrated Circuits and Systems Sciences told EETimes.
Today on-chip serial links consume about 20 percent of a microprocessor's power and about seven percent of the total power budget of a data center. By using transceivers that only consume power when being used, a vast amount can be saved from their standby consumption.
The reason the links are always on today is to maximize speed. The new architecture reduces their power-up time enough to make it worth turning them off when not it use. The team estimates that data centers alone would save $870 million per year by switching to their transceiver architecture.
One of the lead researchers, professor Pavan Kumar Hanumolu, explained:
Typical links take a long time (several micro-seconds) to synchronize the receiver with the transmitter because of slow feedback loops employed in the clock generation and data recovery circuits. As a result, such links take a long time to turn on (referred to as power-on time) from the off state and therefore can not be turned on and off rapidly. Such a long power-on time severely limits the ability to save power during the idle link period. The new techniques reduce link power-on time to 20 nanoseconds and facilitate power savings even during short idle times. To quantify this further, compared to the typical link operating at 1 percent utilization, the new link consumes 44 times less power.
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