ISSCC 2019 Preview: Moore’s Regulation could also be slowing down, however innovation is not


The Worldwide Stable-State Circuits Convention, aka ISSCC, that takes place subsequent week in San Francisco will likely be notable partly for what will not be there. For the primary time in latest reminiscence, the annual semiconductor conference–now in its 66th year–will not embrace any new general-purpose processors, in an indication of how the chip business is altering. Nonetheless there will likely be no scarcity of innovation with bleeding-edge in areas similar to AI, 5G wi-fi, automotive and healthcare.

The dearth of any main microprocessor displays appears to replicate two tendencies. First, Moore’s Regulation scaling is slowing down as transistors strategy basic limits. Intel’s 10nm Ice Lake will not arrive till the vacations and the foundries are nonetheless ramping 7nm chips (with comparable dimensions), so 5nm continues to be years out. Second, latest beneficial properties have come much less from general-purpose CPUs and extra from specialised accelerators similar to GPUs, FPGAs and customized chips often called ASICs. This 12 months’s processor session has no scarcity of those specialised chips for automotive, robotics, cryptography, graph processing and optimization issues. IBM may also give a chat on Summit at Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory and Sierra at Lawrence Livermore Nationwide Laboratory, which use a mixture of Power9 CPUs and Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs to vault to the present High500 checklist of the world’s quickest computer systems.

Fb’s Yann LeCun will open the convention with a chat on the challenges to proceed to make progress in AI. A lot of the progress in deep studying for the reason that ImageNet contest in 2012 has been in supervised studying, which requires numerous knowledge labeled by people, or in reinforcement studying, which requires too many trials to be sensible for a lot of functions. The principle problem for the subsequent decade, LeCun will argue, will likely be to construct machines that may study extra like people. This “self-supervised studying” would require rather more highly effective than now we have in the present day, but it surely may sometime lead to machines with some degree of frequent sense.

The rise in AI and machine studying workloads has led to cell SoCs with neural processing models similar to Apple’s A12 Bionic and Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 980 for smartphones and different edge gadgets. In a separate session on machine studying, Samsung will unveil its dual-core neural processor with 1,024 multiply-accumulate (MAC) models designed for its 8nm course of which is able to 6.94 trillion operations per second at zero.eight volts. Samsung says the structure of its neural processor delivers a 10x speed-up over the earlier state-of-the-art, which is hard to confirm with out extra particulars on the info codecs and algorithms, however what is evident is that the efficiency of neural processors has been rising quickly because the chart beneath evaluating the progress in machine studying chips since final 12 months’s convention illustrates. This 12 months’s talks may also embrace designs that may deal with various kinds of synthetic neural networks (together with neuromorphic chips for spiking neural nets) and multiple-bit precision to commerce off accuracy and throughput.


The efficiency and effectivity of neural community processors is growing at a speedy price.

Supply: ISSCC 2019

One of many key challenges for AI is protecting these highly-parallel processing engines busy as a result of programs cannot learn knowledge from reminiscence and write the outcomes again quick sufficient. This 12 months, ISSCC will embrace a day discussion board dedicated to memory-centric architectures for AI and machine studying functions with talks by ARM, IBM, Intel, Nvidia, and Samsung amongst others. On the high-end, sooner reminiscence similar to Excessive-Bandwidth Reminiscence (HBM) and GDDDR6 are serving to to handle this and rising storage-class reminiscences similar to STT-MRAM may fill the void between DRAM system reminiscence and flash solid-state storage.

A extra novel resolution that’s the focus of a lot present analysis cuts out the info switch altogether and as a substitute crunches the numbers within the reminiscence array. A few of the CIM (compute in-memory) candidates at this 12 months’s convention embrace ReRAM and SRAM macros. These designs are particularly promising for machine studying in edge gadgets as a result of they’ve very low latency and are extremely environment friendly when it comes to operations per second per watt.

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The convention may also embrace numerous information on extra typical embedded and standalone reminiscence gadgets. Each Samsung and TSMC will current 7nm dual-port SRAM bitcells for high-performance functions (dual-port RAM permits a number of reads and writes to happen concurrently to spice up efficiency). ISSCC may also characteristic a number of the first displays on the next-generation of DRAM reminiscence to extend bandwidth and cut back energy. Samsung will describe its first-generation 10nm-class LPDDR5 (low-power DDR5) system for smartphones and different cell functions, which isn’t solely sooner (7.4Gbps per pin) but in addition cuts learn and write energy by 21 % and 33 %, respectively, in comparison with the present LPDDR4X. Rival SK Hynix will current a 16Gb DDR5 chip that operates at 6.4Gbps per pin and cuts energy by practically a 3rd.

SK Hynix may also have an fascinating discuss on a managed DRAM bundle that mixes eight chips with a controller to achieve capacities of 512GB on module. The primary 256GB modules primarily based on 16Gb DDR4 chips (as much as 4 per bundle) are simply now hitting the market pushing the capability in mainstream Xeon Scalable “Cascade Lake” two-socket servers to 6TB.

On the storage facet, the introduction of 3D NAND flash reminiscence and three- (TLC) and four-bits-per-cell (QLC) programming is pushing density to new heights. Western Digital (SanDisk) will announce the business’s highest 3D reminiscence stack with 128 layers and the peripheral circuitry beneath the array leading to a 512Gb TLC chip. Samsung may also current its newest 512Gb TLC chip whereas Toshiba’s 96-layer system employs QLC to push the density to 1.33Tb per chip or greater than 1GB per sq. millimeter.  


With the speedy progress in 3D stacked NAND, flash reminiscence continues to outrun all the rising opponents.

Supply: ISSCC 2019

Excessive-performance computing, large cloud knowledge facilities and sooner 4G and 5G networks are driving demand for sooner networks in any respect ranges. This 12 months’s convention will embrace a number of bulletins of a number of state-of-the artwork wireline transceivers that use PAM-Four modulation to achieve speeds at or above 100Gbps-including three 7nm chips (eSilicon, Huawei and MediaTek) and an IBM 14nm FinFET design that reaches a file 128Gbps. These will assist meet demand for sooner hyperlinks inside and between knowledge facilities.

For wi-fi wide-area networks, Qualcomm at present has the sting with its X50 modem—which is able to present up in lots of the first 5G telephones at Cellular World Congress later this month—however a number of others are shut behind. At ISSCC, Samsung will current a 14nm baseband that helps standalone and non-standalone 5G (in addition to 2G, 3G and 4G) and delivers as much as three.15 Gbps down and 1.27Gbps up on a die measuring 38.Four sq. millimeters. It’s a part of the Exynos Modem 5100 chipset (which additionally consists of energy administration chips) that Samsung will likely be demonstrating at ISSCC. Intel will current a 28nm 5G transceiver for sub-6GHz bands and mmWave bands. It’s a part of the XMM 8160, a 5G chipset that Intel introduced in late 2018. The XMM 8160 helps standalone and non-standalone 5G modes (and 2G, 3G and 4G and 5G) and will likely be able to speeds as much as 6Gbps. The XMM 8160 ships within the second half of 2019 and replaces Intel’s first 5G chipset, the XMM 8060, which it stated is “is turning into a growth platform.”  


Excessive-performance computing, large cloud knowledge facilities and speedy 4G and 5G networks drive demand for sooner networks in any respect ranges. 

Supply: ISSCC 2019

It might be taking loads longer for Intel and others to ship the subsequent large “tick” in microprocessors, however the business nonetheless has loads of “tocks” up its sleeves. The demand for sooner compute, storage and communications has not slowed, and as this 12 months’s ISSCC will illustrate, chipmakers proceed to search out revolutionary methods to reply.